October 2018 News

Second-phase Of Civic Polls In 23 Areas Today

9 October 2018
Greater Kashmir
Umer Maqbool

Srinagar: Parts of summer capital Srinagar and southern Anantnag town will go to polls along with 21 other areas in J&K in the 'crucial' second phase of urban local body elections on Wednesday, amid heightened security and a shutdown call by the Joint Resistance Leadership in poll-bound areas. According to civil and security officials, the conduct of polls in Srinagar areas as well as the Anantnag town is a challenge given the volatile history of the poll-bound areas. An official told Greater Kashmir that out of 23 urban local bodies going to polls, five are in Kashmir and 18 in Jammu. At least 30 urban local bodies were scheduled to go for polling in the second phase but elections were not necessitated in seven towns of southern Kashmir where contestants were either elected unopposed or there were none. The polling will be held in Srinagar's 19 wards spread over Batamaloo and Habba Kadal assembly segments, 16 wards of Anantnag municipal council, two wards of Langate, one ward in Watergam (Baramulla) and 11 wards of Sumbal (Bandipora). In Jammu province, the voting will take place for municipal committees Kishtwar, Doda, Bhaderwah, Thatri, Ramban, Banihal, Batote, Ramnagar, Chenani, Reasi, Katra, Hira Nagar, Nagri Parole, Lakhanpur, Billawar, Basholi, and municipal councils Udhampur and Kathua. The towns that won't witness polling in Kashmir are Kunzer, Chrar-i-Sharif, Beerwah, Magam, Yaripora, Frisal and Bijbehera. Chief electoral officer Shaleen Kabra said that voting will take place at 544 polling stations. 270 polling stations have been designated for voting in Kashmir division and 274 in Jammu division, he said, adding that polling time will be from 6 am to 4 pm. The CEO said that 1029 candidates are in fray for 263 municipal wards, including 49 in Kashmir and 214 in Jammu, in the second phase. '881 candidates are in the fray in Jammu division and 148 in Kashmir division,' he said. Kabra said that the total electorate in polling areas is 346980-128104 in Jammu bodies and 218876 in Kashmir division. He said that basic minimum facilities (BMF) have been ensured in all polling stations while photo voter slips have already been distributed among voters to inform them about their polling stations. Kabra said that senior government officers have been appointed as general observers to oversee the smooth, fair and orderly conduct of the polls. 'Expenditure observers are also keeping a watch on expenditure by the candidates,' he said, and added that for the poll day, micro-observers will be deployed in polling stations, particularly those considered 'sensitive or hypersensitive.' 'Besides, zonal and sector magistrates have been deployed to ensure smooth conduct of polls as well as monitoring the entire process,' the CEO said, and added that deputy commissioners are undertaking videography of all 'critical events' related to the poll process. Kabra said that control rooms have been established in all municipal bodies to respond promptly to any complaints of violation of the Model Code of Conduct and also to disseminate information to the public. He said that 'adequate' security arrangements have been made for smooth conduct of the polling across the state. The government has also declared holiday on the day of polling in areas going to polls to enable the voters to cast their vote, he said. He said as per the standing guidelines, the central government offices shall not be closed but employees who are electors of the poll-going wards and desire to exercise their franchise shall be offered reasonable facility-by way of coming late to office-allowed to leave office early- short absence. The CEO urged voters to exercise their right to franchise to 'choose their local self-government to address their local needs.' The municipal elections are being held in four phases in the state. In the first phase on Monday, Kashmir witnessed lowest turnout of 8 percent, even as the overall turnout in areas that went to polls across Jammu and Kashmir stood at 56.7 percent. The Joint Resistance Leadership has called for a boycott of the civic elections, while two major mainstream political parties-the National Conference and People's Democratic Party-decided against participating in the electoral exercise, citing 'assault' on Article 35A which has been challenged in the Supreme Court.