Tensions peak ahead of municipal polls in Valley

Srinagar/Jammul Amid tight security and heightened tensions ahead of the start of staggered municipal polls in the Kashmir Valley, suspense mounted on Sunday on voter participation amid militant threats to both candidates and voters.

It is the first time the authorities have not publicized the names of contesting candidates in the troubled valley.

This has been done to address the security concerns of the candidates who remain under threat from the militants.

Authorities have also ensured that all the candidates in the valley are in a secure accommodation ahead of the poll process.

The Valley’s two major parties, the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), are boycotting the elections.

So have the CPI-M, the Peoples Democratic Front (PDF) headed by Hakim Yaseen and the Democratic Party Nationalist (DPN) headed by Ghulam Hassan Mir.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress and independent candidates are the only contestants.

While 244 candidates have been elected unopposed, there are no candidates in the fray in 159 municipal wards of the Kashmir Valley.

Statistically, 29 percent of voters will have no candidates to choose from in their wards in the valley.

The election campaign has not been witnessed at any place in the valley.

While secrecy surrounds the contestants, a huge question mark remains on who will stick their neck out on Monday to vote.

While militants have issued threats to both candidates and voters, separatist leaders have called for a protest shutdown in the Kashmir Valley on Monday.

Tension was palpable in the region on Sunday as the authorities beefed up security across Jammu and Kashmir.

Four hundred additional companies of paramilitary forces have arrived here to augment the existing strength of security forces.

In Srinagar, three wards will see polling.

Scores of motorbikes were seized by the police at various check posts in the city on Saturday and on Sunday on account of lack of documents or in cases where the bikers had violated traffic rules.

All vehicles entering the city were being thoroughly checked.

Hi-tech electronic surveillance equipment is being used to strengthen human intelligence in areas where polling is scheduled.

In addition to three municipal wards in Srinagar city, polling for municipal committees of Kupwara, Handwara, Bandipora, Baramulla, Chadoora, Badgam, Khansahib, Achabal, Devsar, Kokernag, Qazigund and Kulgam in the Kashmir Valley as well as Leh and Kargil in the Ladakh region is scheduled for Monday.

In Jammu region, polling for municipal committees of Bishnah, Arnia, R.S. Pura, Akhnoor, Khour, Jurian, Rajouri, Thanamandi, Nowshera, Kalakote, Sunderbani, Poonch and Surankote will also take place on Monday.

In addition, voting will be held for the Jammu municipal corporation.