J-K: 2nd phase of urban local bodies elections begins

Srinagar (Jammu and Kashmir): Polling began on a brisk note in 13 districts of Jammu and Kashmir as a part of the second phase of the urban local bodies elections on Wednesday.

As per the Election Commission of India, a total of 1,198 candidates have fielded their nomination but following withdrawal and scrutiny, only 1,095 candidates are in the fray for the elections in the second phase.

Notably, out of 1,095, as many as 65 candidates have won the elections uncontested, including 61 from the Kashmir Valley. The second phase will cover a total of 384 wards.

Security has been beefed up across the state so that the polls can be conducted in a peaceful manner. Majority of the candidates have been provided with either cluster security in hotels or individually in the Valley.

Interestingly, this is the first municipal elections where Kashmiri migrants are able to exercise their franchise after the ECI allowed them to cast their votes through postal ballots.

The overall turnout for the first phase of local body elections which concluded peacefully on Monday was 56.7 percent. However, the voting percentage was abysmally low in the Kashmir Valley with 8.3 per cent of the vote, whereas around 65 per cent of the electorate voted in the Jammu and Ladakh divisions of the state.

These elections were announced last month, but two major political parties which had dominated the region– The National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) boycotted the polls accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government of taking a firm stand on the protection of Article 35(A) of the Constitution which has been challenged in the Supreme Court.

The third phase covering 207 Wards is scheduled to take place on October 13, and the fourth phase covering 132 Wards on October 16. The counting of votes will take place on October 20.

The last poll to the Municipal bodies in the state was held in 2005 through ballots and the five-year term expired in February 2010.