People queue up from 7 a.m. despite sub-zero temperature in the Valley
J&K’s maiden elections for the District Development Councils (DDC), also the first electoral exercise since the abrogation of the special status last year, recorded a peaceful 52% voting on Saturday, despite the cold weather and a snow cover in many constituencies.
“J&K recorded 51.76% polling in phase one. The polling was by and large peaceful in 43 constituencies. Around 3.62 lakh of the 7,00,842 voters, including 1.93 lakh men and 1.69 lakh women, voted to choose their representatives,” State Election Commissioner (SEC) K.K. Sharma said.
The Valley’s Budgam district recorded the highest polling at 56.96% followed by Kupwara at 50.74% and Ganderbal at 48.62%.
Volatile south Kashmir’s Pulwama saw 6.70%, Shopian 42.58%, Kulgam 34.35% and Anantnag 43.32% voting. The capital Srinagar recorded 33.76%.
Despite the recent snowfall in many constituencies, Bandipora recorded 43.57% and Baramulla 32.51% polling.
In the Jammu division, Reasi district recorded the highest polling at 74.62% followed by Rajouri at 70.52% and Poonch with 68.69% polling. Hundreds of Gorkhas and Valmiki voters, who became eligible for voting for the first time since the abrogation of the special status, also cast their votes in Jammu.
Most voters in south Kashmir saw the DDC polls as a new layer of easy interface with the administration, while many described them as “decisive to put across people’s sentiment on dilution of Article 35A and Article 370”.
“I am voting to keep the BJP away. My vote is for those who promise to return J&K’s special status and talk about a political resolution of Kashmir,” Majeed Khar, a voter in Shopian’s Keller, said.
The polls may be for the third tier of the Panchayati Raj but the ideological issues dominated the campaign, instead of developmental planks.
All the star campaigners of the BJP, including Union Ministers Anurag Thakur and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, ruled out return of the Articles 370 and 35A while the leaders associated with the Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), including Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti and Sajad Lone, promised the people to work towards the restoration of pre-August 5 position.
This is also the first election where separatists did not campaign for any boycott. Militants also did not issue any threat to voters and candidates online or on the ground.
One voter was injured in a minor incident of stone pelting in south Kashmir.
“The overall situation remained under control throughout the Kashmir division. There was a minor incident of stone pelting at polling location C.R. Pora in Kulgam district, in which one voter was injured. A First Information Report (FIR) has been registered,” IGP Vijay Kumar told The Hindu.
Exit polls prohibited
The SEC has prohibited any exit polls till the hour fixed for conclusion.
“The election authority prohibits the conduct of any exit poll and publishing or publicising or displaying the results of exit polls by means of the print or electronic media or in any other manner in the ongoing DDC polls till the hour fixed for conclusion of poll in the last phase of these elections on December 19,” an official said.