A relative help an old woman as she leaves a polling station after casting her vote at Inderkot Sumbal District Bandipora. (Express Photo by Shuaib Masoodi)
The voter turnout in Kashmir again drew a sorry figure as only 3.4 per cent of the 2.20 lakh eligible voters came out to exercise their franchise in the second phase of municipal polls in the state. These figures drew a sharp contrast with the voting percentage in Jammu where 78.6 per cent of over 1.26 lakh voters turned out to give their mandate.
The state witnessed an overall voter turnout of 31.3 per cent out of the total electorate of 3.47 lakh in the second phase. In the first phase of elections concluded Monday, Kashmir had seen only 8.3 per cent voter turnout while Jammu and Ladakh regions had witnessed over 65 per cent voting. The total poll per cent of the state after two phases stands at 47.2 per cent, with Jammu and Kashmir regions contributing 67.7 per cent and 8.3 per cent respectively.
Srinagar Municipal Corporation, having nineteen wards with a voter count of 1.78 lakh, witnessed a turnout of just 2.3 per cent. Till 4 pm, voter turnouts in Anantnag stood at 1.1 per cent, Kupwara 5.1 per cent, Baramulla 7 per cent. Bandipora, however, witnessed brisk polling as 35.6 per cent of the 8,300 voters exercised their franchise.
Polling will be held again at ward no.23 in New Colony, Shirpora Payeen on October 13 due to EVM malfunction. Fresh elections will be held at ward no.2 of Ramban municipality due to death of a candidate. BJP candidate from Ramban Azad Singh Raju, 62, died due to a cardiac arrest when he was about to cast his vote. Raju was among 24 candidates in the fray for the seven municipal bodies of Ramban district.
The low voter turnout was expected amid the looming threat of militant violence who have called out the people to avoid the local polls.
Following a low turnout in the first phase of municipal polls, the state election office Tuesday decided to change the poll timings again to 6 am to 4 pm. The initial timings were 7 am to 2 pm. This triggered fears among some political parties that it may be meant to manipulate the election process.
Over 1,000 candidates – 881 in Jammu division and 148 in Kashmir division – are in the fray for 263 municipal wards including 49 in Kashmir and 214 in Jammu.
As many as 65 candidates, 61 of them being from Kashmir valley, have already won the polls uncontested while in 56 wards – all in the valley – no nomination was filed, due to which no voting took place there.
Massive security arrangements were put in place for smooth conduct of the polls as no unwanted incident was reported during the day. The next phases are scheduled to take place on October 13 and 16.
National Conference (NC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and CPI(M) have boycotted the polls due to the legal challenge to Article 35A of the Constitution in the Supreme Court. This leaves the BJP, the Congress, Sajad Lone’s Peoples’ Conference and independents in the fray.
(With PTI inputs)