Over 23 per cent voters exercised their franchise in the initial hours of polling for the District Development Council elections on Tuesday in Jammu and Kashmir, officials said.
Voting started at 7 am. While Kashmir division recorded an overall polling per centage of 15.64 per cent, Jammu division recorded 32.54 per cent till 11 am, they said.
As many as 321 candidates are in the fray in the second phase of the DDC polls and voting is taking place at 2,142 polling booths. As many as 7.90 lakh voters are eligible to vote in this phase of elections.
Out of the 280 constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir, 43 are going to polls in the second phase with 25 in Kashmir and 18 in Jammu division.
As per the figures given by the office of the State Election Commissioner in Kashmir division, Kupwara recorded voting per centage of 16 per cent, Bandipora 39.89 per cent, Baramulla 14.45 per cent, Ganderbal 15.65 per cent, Srinagar 18.26 per cent, Budgam 25.29 per cent, Shopian 3.95 per cent, Kulgam 14.37 per cent and Anantnag 15.56 per cent.
In Jammu division, Kishtwar recorded voting per centage of 28.47 per cent, Doda 35.86 per cent, Ramban 24.75 per cent, Reasi 32.27 per cent, Udhampur 26.39 per cent, Kathua 29.75 per cent, Samba 38.34 per cent, Jammu 39.65 per cent, Rajouri 32.09 per cent and Poonch 38.42 per cent till 11 am.
Elections are also being held in 83 sarpanch constituencies for which a total of 223 candidates are contesting in the phase two.Also, bypolls are being held in 331 panch constituencies. Over 700 candidates are in the fray for these seats.
The first phase of the eight-phased elections, marking the first democratic exercise in Jammu and Kashmir after abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state into two union territories last year, was held on November 28 with nearly 52 per cent electorate exercising their franchise in both divisions.
The officials said the scene outside polling stations across Jammu region was no different than what was witnessed in the first phase. Jammu region had recorded 64.2 per cent voter turnout and Kashmir 40.65 per cent in the first phase of the DDC polls.
Authorities made all necessary arrangements to ensure peaceful polling and to counter the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are thankful to the people for turning up in large numbers to cast their ballots. This shows the people's faith in democracy,” senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader and former minister Chander Prakash Ganga said after casting his vote at a polling station set up in the Government High School at Meen Sarkar in Samba district.
The heavily-guarded polling station witnessed good turnout of voters.
However, many people were seen flouting COVID-19 social distancing guidelines.
Talking to reporters, Ganga said, “Prime Minister Narendra Modi ensured implementation of the three tier panchayati Raj system in J&K and we are confident that the efforts of the central government will restore everlasting peace in Jammu and Kashmir".
He also claimed that the voters rejected the ‘anti-national alliance’, which was talking the language of ‘Pakistan and China’, an apparent reference to the People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, which is an amalgam of seven mainstream parties including National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party, and headed by former chief minister Farooq Abdullah.
Manjeet Singh, a resident of Meen Sarkar, said after casting his vote that, “We believe in democracy and want it to be strengthened so that an ordinary citizen can reap the benefits of the development.”
He said he voted for development so that the problems being faced by locals are addressed and they are also provided with good healthcare facilities and proper infrastructure for students.
Anju Sharma, a young voter, welcomed the DDC elections but advocated for early assembly polls to give a popular government to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.