The first phase of the multi-phased Panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir is set to get underway on Wednesday morning, offering another opportunity to the electorate of the state to choose their representatives at the local level.
The separatists, as usual, have asked people to boycott the polls that are being held after a gap of a decade. An extra-ordinary feature of the polls is that these are contested on a non-party basis.
"It is the real devolution of power to the grassroots level. All democratic processes are incomplete, unless the power devolves down to the village level", said a ruling National Conference leader.
"Eight blocks of the state, three in the Valley and five in the Jammu region are going to the polls on Wednesday in the first phase", said an election official here.
No electronic voting machines are being used for these elections. Paper ballets would be cast by the voters after they put stamps on the names and symbols of the candidates of their choice. The sarpanchs for various village constituencies are also being chosen through direct elections in the Panchayat polls.
For the first time, these elections are being fought on a non-party basis which means no mainstream political party has been allowed to field their own candidates, or interfere directly in this electoral exercise. A high level security review has already been taken for the 4128 panchayats those go to polls across the state.
"Threat perceptions have been carefully evaluated in respect of each Panchayat constituency and security has been accordingly beefed up. All security arrangements are in place and we are expecting a very high voter turnout in the first phase being held tomorrow and in all subsequent phases of voting", a senior police officer said.