October 2018 News

Civic Polls Begin In Jammu And Kashmir Today

7 October 2018
The Hindu
Peerzada Ashiq

Srinagar: Amid threats from militants and boycott calls by separatist groups and the two main regional parties, polling will be held for 422 of the 1,145 wards in the first phase of urban local bodies elections in Jammu and Kashmir on Monday. A total of 1,204 candidates are in the fray. Unlike the situation in the Valley, the mood is upbeat in Jammu. Nearly 40,000 additional security personnel have been deployed in 149 wards in volatile districts of Kulgam and Anantnag in south Kashmir, Budgam in central Kashmir, and Baramulla, Bandipora and Kupwara in north Kashmir. Bullet-proof bunkers have been set up on all main roads across the Valley to stop fidayeen (suicide) attacks by militants. 'All arrangements are in place to ensure the free, fair, transparent and peaceful conduct of the elections. No restrictions will be imposed anywhere in the Kashmir Valley. People should come out to vote without any fear,' Director-General Police (DGP) Dilbagh Singh said. All senior separatist leaders, including Yasin Malik, Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, have been detained in Srinagar 'as a precautionary measure'. 'Election is a drama. A massive crackdown has been launched on our supporters to thrust the so-called polls on people who have already rejected this military exercise,' the Mirwaiz said. With just hours to go, the mood in the three wards in Srinagar - Hyderpora, Rawalpora and Zakura - was reflected in the fact that no public campaign was carried out by any of the eight candidates, whose details have been kept anonymous by the authorities for security reasons. All candidates have been provided either cluster security in hotels or individually in the Valley. Militants have issued a number of threats to the candidates, warning them against contesting the polls. With situation tense in the Valley, 78 candidates, mainly in south and central Kashmir, have already been declared elected unopposed for the first phase. In Kulgam, where over 20 local militants were killed this year, 13 candidates, mostly from the BJP, won all 21 wards uncontested. In Central Kashmir's 34 wards, 26 candidates are in the fray and 24 candidates have won uncontested. In Anantnag, another militancy-dominated district in south Kashmir, 28 wards are going to the polls, 25 candidates are contesting and 17 wards have been won uncontested chiefly by BJP candidates. In Kargil and Leh, 69 candidates are contesting 26 wards. In Jammu city, 447 candidates - many of them Independents - will contest 75 wards. 'The BJP and the Congress are facing a threat from Independents. The BJP is facing anti-incumbency and the Congress is battling with its image,' said Rajiv Mankotia of Jammu city. Elections will be held in 93 wards of Rajouri and Poonch.

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