In the first phase of the district development council polls today, 51. 76 percent of polling took place as people came out amid cold waves sweeping Kashmir Valley and mountainous regions of Jammu.
“It’s encouraging to see voters come out to participate in the DDC polls despite the cold weather. I hope as the day progresses more people choose to cast their votes,” former Chief Minister and National Conference vice president Omar Abdullah said.
In Kupwara and other districts a large number of people came out to vote especially in the higher altitudes. In Kalaroos area of frontier district Kupwara, a lot of enthusiasm was witnessed among the voters. Kupwara district recorded 50.74 percent voting.
As many independent candidates are in fray in every constituency, the number of contesting candidates also became a factor that prompted people to come out to vote. In the hilly district of Doda, people walked a long distance to cast their vote. The Doda district recorded 64.21 percent voting.
The summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, Srinagar, also saw modest voting with over all percentage of 33. 76 percent. In Ganderbal the residents said, the political issues would be dealt by the Assembly, whenever the polls will be held. However, they say, for local developmental issues the DDC are necessary. In most of the areas, the voters said they came out to vote so that their developmental issues are redressed. Ganderbal district recorded 48.62 percent polling. In some areas in the valley, youngsters said they have come out to vote to keep the BJP out of the power. Reasi district recorded 74.62 polling percentage. Lowest polling was witnessed in Pulwama district of South Kashmir with 6.70 percent polling.
As the local elections are being held for the first time in Jammu and Kashmir after abrogation of Article 370, district development council polls in Jammu would mostly be a contest between the BJP and other parties. But in Kashmir, where the BJP has no footprints, the polls would be mostly between the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration and the other parties. The PAGD is fighting the polls jointly fearing their boycott of the local polls would have easily given the BJP a victory. The BJP is fighting the polls on development issues while the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration described the polls as an ideological battle and is even talking about restoration of Article 370. The BJP is facing an issue in its bastion in Jammu as smaller parties particularly Panthers Party and former Minister Lal Singh’s Dogra Swabhiman Sangathan are likely to dent the party's vote bank in Jammu Udhampur districts.
The polling started at a slow pace with only 5.25 percent of votes recorded till 9 am across. In subsequent hours, a large number of people came out to cast their votes as long queues were seen despite severe cold conditions in Kashmir and hilly areas of Jammu. Till 11:00 am, 22.12 percent voting was recorded in different constituencies spread over all the districts of Jammu and Kashmir. Around 1 pm, 39.69 voter percentage was recorded.
There are 280 constituencies in J&K, 14 in each district, out of which voting was conducted in 43 constituencies from 7 am to 2 pm in phase I. In the DDC elections in Phase I, 296 candidates are in electoral fray including 207 male and 89 female candidates.
Sarpanchs election were conducted in 94 constituencies and 279 candidates, 203 males, 76 females, were contesting in phase I. Similarly, in Panchs by-poll elections, held in 368 constituencies, total 852 candidates were in electoral fray out of which 635 are male and 217 are female candidates. 768 Panchs including 36 Sarpanchs have been elected unopposed.
Out of 7 lakh voters who were eligible to vote in the first phase, more than 3. 72 lakh were from Kashmir and 3.28 lakh were from Jammu. The government has set up 2146 polling stations for Phase I.
The State Election Commission of Jammu and Kashmir has prohibited the conduct of any exit poll and publishing and displaying of the result of exit poll in the ongoing DDC polls till the last phase of the elections.
BJP president for J&K Ravinder Raina sought support for the BJP candidates in the DDC elections. Addressing election rallies at Sunderbani in Rajouri, Raina said people have faith in the Modi government’s policies and they trust the present dispensation beyond any doubt. He said the public has established now that every step taken by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi led Union Government has a very positive futuristic impact on the nation.
For in-depth, objective and more importantly balanced journalism, Click here to subscribe to Outlook Magazine