Polling for the third phase of the local urban bodies started in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) today morning amid tight security. A total of 365 candidates are in the fray for the 96 wards that are going to the polls today.
The elections to the local urban bodies in J&K are being held after a gap of 13 years. Owing to security concerns, the polls are being held in four phases, the first of which was held on Monday (October 8).
The voting started at 6am and will end at 4am. Officials said a total of 300 polling stations have been set up across the state for today’s poll. “Out of the 300 polling stations, 241 stations (222 in the Kashmir Division and 19 in Jammu Division) have been categorised as hypersensitive,” officials told news agency PTI.
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The first two phases of the local urban bodies elections saw an overall turnout of 47.2 per cent. There are 79 municipal bodies in the state with 1,145 wards. The last phase of the polls will be held on October 16 (Tuesday) and the votes will be counted on October 20.
The two principal Kashmir-centric parties–the National Conference and the People’ Democratic Party–are boycotting the polls due to the controversy around Article 35A of the Constitution that gives a special statue to J&K.
The civic polls are being held under the shadow of violence, threat and boycott calls. On last Saturday, two workers of the National Conference were killed in Srinagar. A day later, militants burnt down a panchayat house in Pulwama.
Besides this, militants in the state have been issuing threats to local leaders and general public to refrain from participating in the polls. Sources had earlier said that around 15 nominations were withdrawn after the killings of two NC workers in Srinagar.
A Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) of separatists leaders, including Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Yasin Malik, have asked people to observe a complete shutdown and boycott elections. The authorities have put the separatist leaders under house arrest.
Meanwhile, security forces were engaged in an encounter with militants in Pulwama and killed one of them early Saturday morning. Sources said top Hizbul commander Zahoor Thoker managed to flee. Earlier, it was reported that Zahoor Thokar of 173 Territorial Army had joined Hizbul Mujahideen. He is one of the most-wanted militants in Kashmir.