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ULB polls: Phase II even bleaker, 97% stay away

Srinagar, Oct 10: Boycott overpowered ballot in Kashmir in second phase of municipal polls as well after only 3.4 % electorate turned to vote in the scheduled 49 wards, comparing to 8.2 % in first phase.

Though Jammu division’s 78% polling took the overall voting percentage in the state to 31.3% – nearly 26 per cent less when compared to the first phase- it was Bandipora district in Kashmir, which saw nearly 36% polling.

Bandipora district, where impact of boycott in the first phase was more after recording mere 3.4% voting, its Sumbal area  broke the Kupwara’s record, which in first phase of Municipal polls witnessed 32.3% voting.

As per the officials the cumulative polling percentage till date is 47.2% with 67.7% voting recorded in Jammu division and 8.3% in Kashmir Division in Phase-I and Phase-II.

Voting began in the valley at 6 am amid shutdown in the poll bound areas where forces were deputed in heavy number to guard the booths.

In the initial hours, low voting was recorded in both Srinagar and Anantnag districts, where many polling booth received no voter till noon.

In Kashmir region, volatile Anantnag district recorded low voting percentage of 1.1, which was followed by Srinagar with 2.3 % in 19 wards.

Of the 1.86 lakh voters in 19 wards of Srinagar Municipal Corporation, only 2.3 per cent (4169) electorates turned to exercise their franchise at the heavily fortified polling stations.

Majority of the polling booths in Srinagar were in highly volatile areas, dominated with pro-freedom sentiment, thus resulting in low or no voting.

While Chattabal recorded no vote in 12 polling station containing 8744 registered electorate, polling booth at Tankipora and Syed Ali Kabra couldn’t cross double digit.

The rest of the polling station, which include Solina recorded 355 votes, Alochibagh (84), SD Colony (88), Ziyarat Batamaloo (62), Shaheed Gunj (123), Karan Nagar (71), Zainakoot 943 and Lawaypora 1020.

An official on election duty takes a nap in an empty Srinagar polling booth… Photo by Umar Ganie

Less business activity and vehicular movement was witnessed in these areas, though no violence reported.

At many polling stations, the polling staff were seen sitting idle for most of the time as no electorate turned to cast the vote.

“Just one vote was cast in the last eight hours here. We have no option other than to wait and watch. Usually voting tends to be brisker during morning hours,” said a polling staff official at Barbarshah.

In southern Kashmir—which has witnessed a spurt in militancy and street protests since last few years, only 356 voters including 179 male and 177females cast their vote out of 31277 eligible voters, which sums up percentage to 1.1.

No vote was cast to the migrant Kashmiri Pandit Sheila Koul Handoo, 62, a BJP candidate from Cheeni Chowk, who contested on BJP ticket till noon.

As per the statement from the office of Chief Election Officer, re-poll shall be held in one of the Anantnag’s polling booth of ward 23 where an Electronic Voting Machine has undergone malfunctioning.

Sumbal in Banidpora district witnessed enthusiastic voters, who had lines up themselves outside polling station to cast their vote.

People donning pherans (traditional cloak) were seen rushing to the polling booths since morning to cast their vote.

A sources said that many agents of the candidates were seen visiting to the households to convince people to cast vote in his/her favour.

Kupwara and Baramulla in north Kashmir recorded 5.1% and 7 %, respectively amid shutdown in poll bound areas.

In Jammu division, highest polling percentage of 84.4% was recorded in Reasi, followed by Ramban, with 79.5 % polling in second phase.

Ward 2 in Ramban as per the officials will also undergo re-poll after the death of a candidate due to the cardiac arrest.

Azad Singh Raju, a BJP candidate died when he was about to cast his vote in the second phase of the municipal elections in Ramban district of Jammu and Kashmir.

Kishtwar, Doda, Udhampur and Kathua recorded 72.8, 72.8,79.2 and 79.4% polling, respectively.

Chief Election Officer, Shaleen Kabra in a statement said that 1029 candidates are in the fray for 263 Municipal Wards for Phase-II with 881 candidates in Jammu division and 148 in Kashmir division for Phase-II.

In the first two phases, he said, 436285 voters have exercised their franchise out of a total of 933,000 voters who were eligible to vote for these two phases.