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CIVIC POLLS: Phase III too ends on single digits

Srinagar, Oct 13: Following the trend seen in the first two phases, boycott again overpowered ballot in Kashmir Valley on Saturday in the third phase of the ongoing municipal polls.
Frontier town of Uri alone, in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district, managed a two-digit figure of turnout.
Polling for phase III began at 6 am, with 365 candidates in fray from across Jammu and Kashmir for 96 wards.
In Kashmir division, the voter turnout in phase III has been 3.5 per cent as against 8.3 and 3.4 per cent in phases I and II, respectively.
The overall poll percentage of first three phases of the ongoing four phase municipal elections has been 6.7 percent in the valley.
Jammu, however, recorded a turnout of 81.4 per cent in the third round, while the overall percentage has been 68.4.
Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) J&K, Shaleen Kabra, said overall 16.4% polling was witnessed in phase-III across J&K.
In Srinagar district, people stayed away from ballot, which recorded just 1.8 per cent voting. Out of 1,53,091 voters, only 2,740 cast their vote.
Twenty of the total wards were in old Srinagar, where the turnout was low. These included Khanqah-e-Mualla, Rathpora, Eidgah, Palpora, Tarabal, Maharajgunj, Jamia Masjid, Makhdoom Sahib, Khwaja Bazaar, Aqilmir Khanyar, Rozabal, Daulatabad, Islamyarbal, Nawab Bazaar, Nawa Kadal, and Safa Kadal.
At most polling booths in these wards, not even the polling agents were present; till afternoon, the candidates themselves hadn’t turned up to vote.
“There is no polling agent of any candidate here. Even no candidate came here to cast the vote,” a polling official at Noorbagh, Eidgah, said.
Similar scenes were witnessed at several polling booths of Gassi Mohalla, Noorbagh, where no polling agent of any candidate was “We don’t know who is contesting elections from here. Nobody will vote here,” an elderly man standing outside the local school-turned-booth said.
The polling staff were gossiping while security forces kept guard outside the booths.
“We are sitting idle here,” a polling staff member said.
“Not a single voter has turned up since morning. I think no one will turn up to cast the vote,” the official told this reporter. “We hope that day passes off peacefully. We are waiting for 4-pm, the concluding time for the polls.”
At the polling booth at Dubji in uptown Maisuma, no polling agent was available neither any candidate had come to cast the vote, an official told this reporter at around 1 pm.
Mohammad Ashraf, a local at Maisuma, said they don’t know who was contesting from their area.
“There was no campaigning neither did we vote,” Ashraf said.
At a polling booth near Khanyar police station, a polling agent said he hailed from Baramulla.
“I am polling agent to an independent candidate. I have nothing to do with poll boycott. I am being paid to be here for the day,” the youth, in his late 20s said. He did not name his payer.
In uptown areas such as Natipora and Mehjoor Nagar, the average turnout was better.
“A neighbour told us to vote for an independent candidate,” a resident of Mehnoor Nagar said, while discussing with other voters how to remove the ink-marked voting sign on his finger.
A few hundred metres away from Syed Ali Geelani’s Hyderpora residence, the security forces were guarding a deserted polling booth.
“Only a few people came to cast their vote,” a security personal said.
In south Kashmir, 3.2 per cent voters cast their vote.
However, in Baramulla the polling percentage went up to 75.3 due to brisk polling in Uri, where the poll percentage recorded the highest in Kashmir—75.3.
Large queues were observed at the polling booths since the state of the polling in the morning.
In Jammu, 81.4% polling was witnessed in 4 ULBs of district Samba. The highest polling percentage of 85.73% was recorded in Bari Brahamana ULB. Chief Electoral Officer said that cumulative poll percentage in all the three phases is 41.9% with 68.4% voting recorded in Jammu division and 6.7% in Kashmir division.
The final phase of the municipal polls is scheduled to be held on 16 October 2018.
The CEO said that due to non-replacement of EVM in time, repoll shall be held at polling station No: 9 Bachidarwaza of Makhdoom Sahab (Ward No: 41) on October 16, 2018.
At the same time, Tral, Awantipora, Sopore, Hajin, and a few other wards where there were single candidates and won unopposed.