Jammu/Srinagar: An overwhelming majority of 79.8 per cent of voters exercised their franchise in the second phase of staggered municipal elections in Jammu division on Wednesday while a mere 3.4 per cent voted in the troubled Kashmir Valley. The overall voter percentage in Jammu and Kashmir was 31.3 per cent, officials said.
At nearly 80 per cent, Ramban district in Jammu division witnessed the maximum polling while only 1.1 per cent voters took part in the exercise in militancy-hit Anantnag district in the Kashmir Valley. The massive voting in Jammu region and poor voter turnout in the Valley was a repeat of the trend also seen in the first round of the four-phase battle.
An overwhelming deployment of security forces ensured that the voting remained peaceful despite militant threats to disrupt the polls being boycotted by the two main parties in the Valley — National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). There was visible reluctance among people to join the democratic process in the Valley. Two lone candidates were declared elected unopposed in Kulgam and Badgam districts.
The second phase thus saw municipal polls only in 11 districts — six in Jammu division and five in the Valley, where a separatist campaign raging since 1989 has left thousands dead. Jammu and Kashmir is holding municipal polls after 13 years.
A Bharatiya Janata Party candidate, Azad Singh, died of cardiac arrest in Ramban immediately after casting his vote, officials said. A total of 1,029 candidates were in the fray in 263 wards in Kathua, Udhampur, Kishtwar, Reasi, Doda and Ramban districts of Jammu region and in Anantnag, Kupwara, Srinagar, Baramulla, Bandipora, Badgam and Kulgam districts of the Valley. The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) also boycotted the elections. The main contestants are the Congress, the BJP and independents.
Separatists called for a protest shutdown in areas where voting took place in the Valley on Wednesday. Militants had threatened candidates and asked voters to keep away from the balloting that would end at 7 p.m.
Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah raised questions over the rescheduling of election timings. “Why are polling booths opening at 6 a.m.? If I believed conspiracy theories, I would believe it’s because journalists would not be around to verify the genuineness of voters at that very early hour,” he tweeted. The third and the fourth phases of the municipal polls would be held on October 13 and 16. The vote count will take place on October 20. (IANS)