J&K fourth phase sees just 4.2% polling

Cumulative turnout 35.1% in local body elections held after a gap of 10 years; counting to be held on October 20 In the lowest turnout recorded in the urban local bodies polls in Jammu and Kashmir, just 4.2% of the electorate voted in the fourth and last phase on Tuesday, further lowering the cumulative percentage of all the phases to 35.1% in the elections held after a gap of 10 years. “Overall 4.2% polling was witnessed in the final phase, with Ganderbal witnessing 11.3% polling in 12 wards with 38 candidates in the fray. Srinagar witnessed 4% polling in 24 wards,” said Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), J&K, Shaleen Kabra. “The counting will be held on October 20,” he added. The impact of the decision to stay away from the polls by two main regional parties, National Conference (NC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and the boycott call by separatists was visible in the last phase. Pulwama’s record In Pulwama district, witness to the most violence this year, the Khrew tehsil saw no candidate in 13 wards. In Pulwama town and its Pampore tehsil, out of 30 wards, a total of seven candidates won uncontested. With results already declared, no polling was held in any ward in Pulwama. “Hundreds of locals, mainly students, nurse wounds inflicted by pellet guns. Even today many residents are behind bars. Holding elections in such a situation is like rubbing salt into the wounds,” said Bashir Ahmad, a fruit seller and a resident of Pulwama. Out of 52 wards won uncontested in the last phase, 13 were from Baramulla’s Pattan, Shopian (17 wards) and Anantnag’s Dooru-Verinag (17). Even capital Srinagar saw a consistent poor turnout at 4%. Of 244 uncontested wards, the BJP won over 70 and the Congress over 30 in the Kashmir Valley. The BJP, which has won two municipalities, is likely to dominate south Kashmir, while the Congress will dominate central and north Kashmir. Sajad Lone’s Peoples Conference is likely to win many wards in north Kashmir. In a first, six Kashmiri migrant Pandits have won wards in south Kashmir, as a record 30 Pandit candidates, living outside the Valley, were in the fray. The four phases saw polls for 79 municipal bodies, with an electorate of about 17 lakh electors and 3,372 nominations filed for 1,145 wards. The Kashmir Valley, in all the phases, registered less than 8.3% polling. This is a huge dip from the turnout of 80% in the panchayat polls in 2011 and 66% in Assembly polls in 2014. However, elections to the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat in 2017 saw just 7% polling. In contrast with the Valley, the Jammu region, including the Chenab Valley and Pir Panjal, and Kashmir region’s Leh and Kargil consistently registered above 60% polling in all four phases, with Reasi touching the highest 84% turnout.

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