In first phase of civic polls,voters enthusiastic in Ladakh and Jammu, Valley votes cautiously



SRINAGAR/JAMMU/LEH: The voter turnout in the first phase of Jammu and Kashmir municipal elections was above average with long queues of enthusiastic voters seen outside the polling stations in Jammu, Poonch, Rajouri districts of the Jammu region and Leh and Kargil in Ladakh. The Kashmir Valley registered a low voter turnout, though determined voters could be seen queuing up at some polling booths even in the troubled South Kashmir areas such as Budgam.

According to J&K’s Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Shaleen Kabra, the overall polling percentage across the state in Monday’s polling has been recorded at 56.70 per cent. However, official sources said that the voter turnout remained restricted to around 18 per cent in the Kashmir Valley, except for Kupwara in north Kashmir.

Kargil recorded the highest 78.2 pc, Rajouri and Poonch in Jammu region recorded 81 and 73.1 pc respectively. Kashmir

Valley showed a single digit percentage in most areas, except for Kupwara, which had a voter turnout of 32.3 pc. In Jammu district, it was 63.8 pc.

Given the acute threat perception in the Kashmir Valley, following the separatists’ boycott call and terrorists’ intimidation, locals feel that even the single digit voting percentage is a statement by Kashmiris in favour of democracy. Even in the worst affected areas of south and central Kashmir, healthy queues were seen at some polling stations.

In Jammu and Ladakh regions, which together comprise 85 per cent of J&K’s land area, voters came out in large numbers – undeterred by the decision of National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party to boycott the elections.

Voting was held amid tight security in 321 municipal wards across 11 districts – three in the Jammu region, two in Ladakh and six in Kashmir Valley – to decide the political fate of 1,204 candidates.

As J&K went to vote for its urban civic bodies after a gap of 13 years - both national and international media watched closely, especially in wake of the terrorists’ threat and poll boycott call by separatists. The day passed off peacefully except for some incidents of stone pelting in Bandipora, in which a BJP candidate was injured.