High alert in J&K ahead of third phase of civic polls
5 February 2005
Srinagar: With Anantnag and Pulwama in South Kashmir going to the third phase of the civic polls tomorrow, security forces are on maximum alert in view of the threat from militant groups to disrupt voting. The highest number of candidates has been elected unopposed for many municipal committees. According to the State Election Office, only 69 of the 147 wards are witnessing a contest. Of the 70 wards in Pulwama, only 14 are going to the polls. 'Twenty-nine candidates were declared elected unopposed; there were no candidates in 27 wards and the election was countermanded in one ward after militants killed a candidate,' an official said. There are six local bodies in the district. In Anantnag district, the situation is comparatively better — the election is taking place in 55 out of 77 wards. In two wards of Mattan, no candidate came forward to file his nomination. Twenty candidates were declared elected unopposed. There are 184 candidates in the fray for the 69 wards, with 153 candidates, including 51 women, contesting 55 seats in Anantnag. Thirty-one candidates are contesting 14 seats in Pulwama. Of the 48 candidates elected unopposed, 35 belong to the ruling People's Democratic Party while its coalition partner, the Congress, has eight seats. The opposition National Conference has bagged three uncontested seats while two have gone to Independents. Candidature withdrawn Additional para-military and police personnel have been deployed as militants have carried out a number of attacks on the candidates in the past few weeks. Following these attacks, 10 candidates withdrew their applications,some of them by publishing advertisements in the local newspapers begging pardon from the militants. In the 17-ward Pampore, no party fielded candidatesfor nine seats as single nominations were elected unopposed. In Khrew there were no takers for even a single seat of the seven-ward local body. This is in sharp contrast to the north Kashmir where polling was held in 113 of 134 wards. According to District Election Officer (Deputy Commissioner) Ananatnag, the district has been divided into five zones to ensure free, fair and peaceful elections. He said 83 polling stations had been set up for an electorate of 60,406, including 29,423 women. Eighty-three presiding officers (166 polling officers and 83 polling attendants) had been deputed in the 55 wards of the district. An official spokesman said 5,396 voters, including 2,638 women, would vote for the 21 candidates in the nine wards of the Pulwama municipal committee. Similarly, 3,148 voters, including 1,523 women, would choose from among 10 candidates in the five wards of the Shopian municipal committee.