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Civic Polls Round III: Turn for downtown, Tral, Sopore to vote after near-total boycott

Srinagar, Oct 12: After near-total boycott in the initial rounds of the ongoing municipal elections in the valley, the turnout is expected to be lesser in the third phase of polling to be held on Saturday in most of the volatile old city and parts of north and south Kashmir.
Most areas of uptown and downtown Srinagar, the municipal committees in Tral, Awantipora, Mattan, Pahalgam, Ashmuqam and Seer Hamdan in south Kashmir, and Hajin, Sopore, and Uri in north Kashmir will go to polls in the third phase.
In the previous elections, most of these areas have earned the reputation of being strongly pro-resistance and rigidly anti-election.
In Srinagar, the municipal wards 6 to 15 and 38 to 53 are scheduled to go to polls in the third phase.
In downtown or the old city, these include Khanqah-i-Moulla, Mahraj Ganj, Jamia Masjid, Makhdoom Sahib, Khawaja Bazar, Aaqilmeer, Rouzabal, Doulatabad, Islam Yaarbal, Nawa Kadal, Nawa Bazar, Safa Kadal, Rathpora, Eidgah, Palpora, and Tarabal areas.
These areas constitute the bastion of the pro-freedom camp headed by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.
In uptown, the polling is going to take place in the municipal wards of Lal Chowk, Rajbagh, Ikhrajpora, Mehjoor Nagar, Natipora, Chanapora, Badshah Nagar, Barzulla, Rawalpora, and Hyderpora.
Eight of these 10 wards are a part of Amira Kadal Assembly segment, which saw noticeable turnout in the previous elections, when National Conference (NC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) contested.
This time, however, the response of the areas remains to be seen, as both NC and PDP have no direct participation in the elections.
The areas of district Pulwama, in south Kashmir, going to polls in phase III include Tral and Awantipora, which are known for the militants they have been producing and the military response thus invoked.
Mattan, Pahalgam, Ashmuqam, and Seer Hamdan municipal committees in Anantnag district, also in south Kashmir, are also going to polls.
In the first two phases, south Kashmir wards saw more than 90 per cent of the electorate staying away from the polling.
In north Kashmir, Sopore and Hajin belt—both the areas are known for their pro-resistance sentiments—are going to polls.
Sopore is the home town of Hurriyat (G) chairman Syed Ali Geelani, where the impact of boycott call has always remained the highest in the past.
Only Uri strikes off as the odd one in the list as people there have historically responded well to the elections there.
Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), J&K, Shaleen Kabra Friday said that in the 3rd Phase, voting will take place at 300 polling stations across the State.
Kabra, in a statement, said that 365 candidates are in the fray for 96 wards of 8 Urban Local Bodies for the 3rd Phase comprising a total electorate of 193990 electors.
“To ensure free and fair elections, observers have been deployed, including micro-observers at 222 hypersensitive polling stations in the Kashmir Division and 19 in Jammu Division,” Kabra said.
The killing of scholar-turned-militant, Mannan Wani, and his associate in an encounter in Handwara on Thursday too may play a role in keeping the people away from polling.
Kashmir on Friday observed a complete shutdown against the militants’ killings, while many areas in north and south Kashmir witnessed protests and clashes among the youth and the government forces.
A police official, however, said that adequate security will be put in place considering the sensitivity of the wards going for polls in the third phase of municipal polls.
From two major regional parties boycotting the polls, zero campaigning to electorate not knowing who they are supposed to vote for, the ongoing polls have registered many firsts.
Most of the candidates have secretly filed nomination with many of them not known to the wards they contest from.