Kashmir region recorded 55.70% polling, while 83% of the electorate voted in the Jammu region in the third phase of panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday, PTI reported. Overall, 75% voters turned up to cast their ballots in the state.

The death of a former Army officer in a scuffle at a voting booth in Doda marred the elections. The police identified the deceased as retired honorary Captain Mohammed Hafiz, Greater Kashmir reported. “A clash erupted between two groups in Doda’s Joura panchayat over a dispute about the counting of votes,” said Bhadarwah Assistant Superintendent of Police Rajinder Singh. Two others were injured in the clash and are being treated at a local hospital.

Voting began at 8 am on Saturday and ended at 2 pm in 2,773 polling booths, including 918 in Kashmir and 1,855 in Jammu division. The process was held amid tight security and in an environment of political confusion in the state.

Chief Electoral Officer Shaleen Kabra said an overall 75% voter turnout was recorded in the state as 3.20 lakh voters participated in the election, according to PTI. Poonch in Jammu recorded the highest voter turnout of 87.8% and Ganderbal in central Kashmir recorded the lowest at 12%.

Election authorities had declared 727 polling stations as hypersensitive and said 5,239 candidates are contesting for 358 sarpanch and 1,652 panch seats. Ninety-six sarpanchs and 1,437 panchs were declared unopposed winners in the third phase, officials said.

In the first phase held on November 17, around 75% voters had participated. A 71.1% turnout was recorded in the second phase of the elections held on November 20. Six more phases will be held until December 11.

The National Conference, the Peoples Democratic Party and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) have boycotted the elections over the lack of clarity on Article 35A of the Constitution, which grants special rights and privileges to the state’s citizens. The three parties did not participate in last month’s urban local body elections as well.

Political deadlock in the state

Governor Satya Pal Malik’s decision to dissolve the state legislature has led to a situation of uncertainty. On Thursday, Chief Election Commissioner Om Prakash Rawat had said that fresh Assembly polls must be held in Jammu and Kashmir within six months, according to a Supreme Court order.

Malik dissolved the Assembly after the National Conference, the Peoples Democratic Party and the Congress staked claim to form a government, claiming the support of 56 MLAs in the 87-member legislature. However, dissident Peoples Democratic Party leader Sajad Lone also staked claim, with the support of the Bharatiya Janata Party.