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Amid separatist shutdown, Kashmir gives cold shoulder to local polls; just 8.3% turnout recorded



Amid a separatist called shutdown, just 8.3 per cent of the electorate voted in the first-phase of the urban local body polls in militancy-hit Kashmir Valley, while Kargil recorded the highest turnout of 78 per cent, an official said Monday.

Polling in 83 wards of the valley began at 7 am and ended at 4 pm amidst tight security.

“Only 7,057 voters of the 84,692 eligible persons turned up to vote in the wards which went to polls Monday. The polling was by and large peaceful,” the official said.

The polls to urban local bodies in Jammu and Kashmir will be held in four phases with the first completed Monday.

Heavy polling was witnessed in Kargil and Leh, which recorded turnouts of 78 per cent and 52 per cent respectively, the official said.

In north Kashmir, the Kupwara Municipal Committee recorded a high voter turnout of 36.6 per cent, while 27.8 per cent of the electorate exercised their franchise at wards of the Handwara Municipal Committee.

Out of the 30,074 voters in three wards of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation, 1,862 turned up at heavily-fortified polling stations.

Budgam recorded a turnout of 17 per cent while Anantnag 7.3 per cent. Baramulla recorded a turnout of 5.7 per cent and Bandipora the lowest 3.3 per cent, the official said.

Polling was held for only 83 wards in the valley Monday as 69 were won uncontested.

Of the 150 polling stations in the Kashmir division, 138 polling stations were categorised as hypersensitive.

The first-phase of the elections in the valley remained by and large peaceful with some minor incidents of stone pelting reported from Bandipora district where a BJP candidate was injured after being targeted by miscreants.

The polls were announced last month but two major political parties — the National Conference (NC) and the PDP — boycotted the elections accusing the Centre of not taking a firm stand on the protection of Article 35A of the Constitution which is facing a legal challenge in the Supreme Court.

Militants had issued threats to anyone participating in these polls, resulting in absence of any campaigning by the candidates. They had also killed two NC workers,

In several wards, especially those in south Kashmir, no candidate filed nomination papers for the polls.

For ensuring security of candidates, they were moved to safe locations and their details were not made public.

The election authorities also kept the identities of the contesting candidates from the valley secret due to security reasons, prompting the people to term these polls as ‘secret elections’.

Separatist leadership under the banner of Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) had called for a complete shutdown on the day while also calling for a boycott of the local polls.

All shops and other commercial establishments remained closed in Srinagar city while public transport remained off the roads. Private transport was however seen plying normally.

Reports of shutdown were also been received from other district headquarters of the valley.

The JRL headed by Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik had called for a shutdown against what they dubbed as “sham elections”.

Here’s the final turnout at the end of  voting at 4 PM as released by Chief Electoral Officer J&K:

5:45 PM: Srinagar recorded 6.2 per cent polling; Baramulla 5.1 per cent; Jammu district: 63.83; Kargil 78.2; Leh 55.2: Poonch 73.1; Rajouri 81 per cent

5:30 PM: 109 votes polled out of 642 in Budgam at the end of voting at 4 pm (17 per cent)

4:30 PM: 32.30 per cent votes polled in Kupwara till 4pm; 3.38 per cent votes polled in Bandipora till 4pm

4:20 PM: 119 votes polled out of total 1662 in four wards of Kokernag as voting ends at 4 pm (7.16 per cent)

Amid tight security, polling was brisk in the Jammu region where an official said that Rajouri district recorded  81 per cent of voter turnout and Poonch 73.1 per cent. Voting began at 7 a.m.

Long queues of enthusiastic voters were seen in almost all the municipal corporation and committee wards in Jammu district.

Voting took place peacefully in Gandhi Nagar, R.S. Pura, Bishnah, Arnia, Khour, Jurian, Akhnoor, Nowshera, Surankote and Kalakote areas and other wards.

But the story in the Kashmir Valley was starkly different, with most voters keeping away from the balloting centres amid a separatist called shutdown.

Poll Percentage at 3 pm

Jammu District: 59%

Poonch: 72%

Rajouri: 78%

Jammu region total percentage – 61%

Kashmir region – 17.5%

Here is the voter percentage till 1 pm:

Anantnag (6.1%), Budgam (12%), Bandipora (2.5%), Baramulla (3.7%), Kupwara (26.3%), Srinagar (5.1%), Leh (44.2%), Kargil (73.6%), Jammu (43.4%), Poonch (63.5%), Rajouri (67.7%).

1:45 PM: Voting percentage till 1 am is 29.23 and 21.45 per cent in Kupwara and Handwara respectively

1:32 PM: Total 964 out of 26149 votes polled in Baramulla until 1pm. Voting percentage: 3.69%.

419 votes polled in Bandipora until 1pm. Voting percentage: 2.47%

12: 30 PM: Official voter turnout percentage till 11am:

Anantnag (5%), Budgam (3%), Bandipora (2%), Baramulla (3%), Kupwara (18%), Srinagar (3.5%), Leh (26%), Kargil (33%), Jammu (34%), Poonch (47%), Rajouri (55%).

11:10 AM: A complete shutdown is being observed in the Kashmir valley following a call issued by the Joint Resistance Leadership against what they said “sham elections”.

11:05AM: Over 15 per cent votes polled in Kupwara

10: 50 AM: 18 votes pollled till 10:30 am in Budgam

10:30 AM: 1.39 per cent voted polled till 10 am in Bandipora. Giving a gender-wise breakup, an official said that 173 males and 87 females exercised their franchise.

10 AM: 15 per cent votes polled in Jammu Municipal Corporation until 9 am.

9:25 AM: 189 votes (1.10%) cast in Bandipora municipal committee till 9 am

9:30 AM: 218 votes (0.83 %) cast in nine wards of Baramulla until 9 am

8:30 AM: 48 votes were cast in 13 wards of Bandipora municipal committee in first hour

8:40 AM: 56 votes were cast at ten polling booths so far in Baramulla town. Five booths witnessed zero polling

Two main regional parties, the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have boycotted the polls. Separatist leaders have also called for the boycott of the polls.

422 of 1145 wards are going to polls in the first phase of the municipal elections today. Voting began at 7 am today in the districts of Anantnag (4 wards), Budgam (1 ward), Bandipora (16 wards), Baramulla (15), Jammu (153), Kargil (13), Kupwara (18), Leh (13), Poonch (26), Rajouri (59) and Srinagar (3 wards).

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