Srinagar, Oct 8: A voter turnout of 63.83% was reorded in the first of four-phase municipal elections in Jammu and Kashmir that began at 7 am on Monday amid tight security.
Threats from militant groups kept a majority of people away from polling booths in Kashmir Valley where the turnout was a paltry 8.3 per cent, whereas in Jammu and Ladakh divisions over 65 per cent of the electorate voted in the first phase of urban local body polls on Monday, officials said.
Polling on Monday was by and large peaceful in the four-phase election to urban local bodies, which has been boycotted by two main regional parties -- the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
In Kashmir Valley, Bandipore recorded the lowest turnout at 3.3 per cent and Kupwara the highest at 36.6 per cent. With no election rallies taking place before the first-phase polling in 58 wards in Kashmir Valley, the fear of militant groups was evident as many of the booths wore a deserted look and at certain places people tried to hide themselves from the assembled mediapersons. In the election to 238 wards in Jammu division, the turnout was recorded at 65 per cent. In Ladakh division's Leh and Kargil districts, 55.2 and 78.1 per cent of the electorate respectively cast their votes till 4 PM, when the voting ended.
As many as 2,990 candidates are in the fray for the four-phased urban local bodies (ULB) polls in the state, where nearly 500 over ground workers (OGWs) have been arrested to ensure peaceful polling scheduled to begin next week after a gap of eight years, officials said on Saturday.
In the first phase, a total of 1,204 candidates are in the fray for the 321 wards. Today, polling will take place in three municipal corporation wards in Srinagar city, municipal committees of Achabal, Bandipora, Baramulla, Badgam, Chadoora, Devsar, Handwara, Khansahib, Kokernag, Kupwara, Kulgam and Qazigund in Kashmir, Leh and Kargil in the Ladakh region. In the Jammu region, polling will take place for municipal committees of Akhnoor, Arnia, Bishnah, Jurian, Kalakote, Khour, Nowshera, Poonch, RS Pura, Rajouri, Sunderbani, Surankote and Thanamandi. In addition, voting will also be held in wards of Jammu municipal corporation.
According to the election department, around 17 lakh electors are eligible to vote in the four-phases in 1,145 wards across the state. Chief Electoral Officer Shaleen Kabra informed that polling will be held for seven hours between 7 am and 2 pm in all the phases.
Meanwhile, security officials said that elaborate arrangements have been put in place to ensure peaceful conduct of the elections.
While the first phase of polls is being held on Monday, the second phase will be conducted on Wednesday, third phase on October 13 and last phase on October 16. The counting of votes will be done on October 20.
Notably, this is the first elections in 13 years when voters in the state would be able to elect their representatives for J&K's municipal bodies. However, many voters were said to be "clueless" about who their candidates were or where the nearest polling booth was, reports suggested.