February 2005 News

PDP retains south Kashmir in civic polls

6 February 2005
The Hindu
Shujaat Bukhari

Anantnag: The ruling People's Democratic Party secured a majority in almost all the councils and committees in the third phase of the civic polls in the south Kashmir districts of Pulwama and Anantnag today. Braving militants' threats as well as the inclement weather, over 44 per cent of the voters made it to the booths. Only 69 of the 147 wards in 12 municipal bodies witnessed a contest. There was no contest in 29 wards while a single candidate was elected unopposed in 49 wards. Elections were countermanded in a ward of Pampore where militants killed a candidate. An official spokesman said the turnout in Anantnag was 34 per cent and 55 per cent in Pulwama. No untoward incident was reported from any part of the region. The authorities had made massive deployments and all the counter- insurgent agencies were part of it. All polling booths were declared hyper-sensitive. In certain areas, soldiers were seen patrolling in full battle gear. The Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's hometown of Bijbehara, which used to witness boycotts during elections, wore a different look today. There were long queues outside the polling booths, and the National Conference and the Congress accused the PDP of 'booth-capturing.' Mohammad Abdullah Nadaf, a former Sayeed loyalist, and his wife, Shaheena, who fought as Congress candidates in Bijbehara, alleged that the PDP encouraged 'voluntary withdrawal' and in one case even 'purchased the withdrawal' of a candidate. The PDP bagged all the 13 seats in the town. In Anantnag town, which still has the largest number of militants, there was willing participation at many booths and total boycott at others. No complaints were, however, made about the fairness of the exercise. Festive crowds were seen in the high school run by the Junglat Mundi and Unjman-e-Nusrat-ul-Islam; over 50 per cent polling was reported there. Unlike in the past, there were no pro-'freedom' demonstrations this time. 'We have come willingly,' said Manzoor Ahmed, who wants to see the town getting a facelift. Long queues were seen outside booths in Pulwama and Shopian that recorded 59 per cent and 49 per cent polling. Similar reports were received from Dooru, Kulgam and Qazigund - the last named recording over 76 per cent polling. PDP sweeps Except Dooru, where the Congress leader and Minister for Works, Ghulam Ahmed Mir, has retained his control, the PDP swept the polls in other local bodies. In Anantnag, the PDP won 11 seats while the Congress managed five and the NC three. In Pulwama, the PDP bagged five seats, with the NC winning three and the Congress one. In the Shopian municipal committee, the PDP got seven, the Congress four and NC one while one remained vacant. The PDP did not contest in Kulgam township but Independents supported by it won seven seats along with the CPI (M). Three went to the NC and one to the Congress.


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