Independent candidates and the Bharatiya Janata Party dominated the block development council elections held in Jammu and Kashmir on October 24.

Out of 316 seats, elections were held for 307, state Chief Electoral Officer Shailendra Kumar said at a press conference in Srinagar on Thursday evening. Out of these, 27 candidates won uncontested. Independent candidates took 217 seats and the BJP won 81.

Eight candidates from the Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers’ Party won from Udhampur district in Jammu division. One Indian National Congress candidate, who had filed his nomination papers despite the party’s boycott of the elections, won from Pulwama district.

The BJP won 52 of its seats in Jammu division, 18 in Kashmir division and 11 in Ladakh. Of the 1,092 nominations filed, 853 had been Independents. Other major parties, including the Congress, the National Conference and the People’s Democratic Party, had boycotted the elections. Most of the Valley’s political leadership, apart from BJP leaders, are also behind bars. That includes three former chief ministers – the National Conference’s Farooq and Omar Abdullah and the Peoples Democratic Party’s Mehbooba Mufti.

First elections since August 5

Block development councils are the second tier of the three-tier panchayati raj system in the state. This was the first time the council elections were held. The council chairperson is voted in by an electoral college consisting of panches and sarpanches in the block. Overall, 98.3% of the electoral college voted in these polls.

These are the first elections to be held since August 5, when the Centre announced its decision to strip Jammu and Kashmir of special status under Article 370. As a result, these were also the last polls to be held in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, which will be split into two Union Territories on October 31.

While polling took place, internet connections, snapped on the night of August 4, remained suspended in the Kashmir Valley. A civil shutdown to protest against the government decisions have kept most shops in the Valley closed, apart from a couple of hours in the day, for weeks.

Panchayat elections were held in Jammu and Kashmir last year. In the Valley, they were marred by low voter turnouts and seats that saw no contests.

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Jammu and Kashmir saw 98.3% polling in the block development council elections. Here’s why

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