Jammu & Kashmir Local Body Elections: Rajouri Records Highest Voter Turnout, No Enthusiasm in Valley
People queue outside a polling booth in Rajouri to cast their votes in the first phase of Jammu and Kashmir urban local body elections (Photo credit: ANI)

Srinagar, October 8: Amid militant threats to both candidates and voters, polling for the first phase of urban local body elections in Jammu and Kashmir began on Monday. Till 11 am, the Jammu region of the state saw an average voter turnout, while in the Kashmir valley electorate largely abstained from voting. A total of 1283 candidates are in the fray for 422 of the 1,145 wards that went to polls in the first phase.

In Kashmir region, Anantnag district recorded 5 per cent, Budgam 3 per cnet, Bandipora 2 per cent and Baramulla 3 per cent voter turnout till 11 am. Voter turnout was recorded at 34 per cent in Jammu, 33 per cent in Kargil, 18 per cent in Kupwara, 26 per cent in Leh, 47 per cent in Poonch, 55 per cent in Rajouri and 3.50 per cent in Srinagar. The polling will culminate at 4 PM later today. A total of 820 polling stations have been set up.

In view of the polling, mobile internet services have been suspended in South Kashmir. Mobile internet speed has been reduced to 2G in other parts of the Kashmir valley. Authorities made unprecedented security arrangements to ensure peaceful polling in the local body elections. All candidates have been provided with either cluster security in hotels or individually in the Valley. The electorate for the first phase of the polls on Monday is 586,064, Shaleen Kabra, the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), said. NC Leader Junaid Mattu Quits Party For Boycotting Civic Polls.

Large numbers of independents candidates are in the fray, while the two main regional parties - the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) - decided to boycott the local body and panchayat elections. The two parties have attributed their decision to the alleged threat posed by the Centre to Article 35(A) of the Indian Constitution -- which grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir. 'Jammu and Kashmir Ours, No Power Can Snatch It From Us’ Says Rajnath Singh Ahead of 2018 J&K Municipal Polls.

The prime contest in this round of the elections is between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Congress and the resurgent National Panthers Party (NPP). In a significant development, in these municipal polls, first-time electronic voting machines are being used, in accordance with the rules that have been amended in 2016.