Jammu/Srinagar, Oct 8 (IANS) Jammu and Kashmir held its first municipal polls in 13 long years on Monday amid a visible Jammu-Kashmir divide, with voters largely boycotting the contest in the Kashmir Valley but taking part with enthusiasm in Jammu and Ladakh regions.
But with tight security provided by thousands of police and paramilitary personnel, the electoral process went off smoothly in the Valley, with just one incident of stone-pelting reported in a Srinagar ward.
There was no militant related violence anywhere in the state, whose new Governor Satya Pal Malik is determined to hold municipal and panchayat elections despite calls for a boycott by separatists and militant threats to candidates and officials.
The Chief Electoral Officer said Rajouri district in Jammu region recorded the highest voter turnout at 81 per cent while the lowest in the troubled Valley was 3.3 per cent – in Bandipora district.
Srinagar district recorded 6.2 per cent, Badgam 17, Anantnag 7.3, Baramulla 5.7, Kupwara 36.6 and Bandipora 3.3 in the Kashmir Valley. Leh saw 55.2 per cent voting, Kargil 78.1, Jammu 63.8, Rajouri 81 and Poonch 73.1 per cent.
The overall voting percentage in the state was 56.7 per cent.
Except for a sporadic clash in Bagh-e-Mehtab area of Srinagar city between youths and security forces, Monday’s elections were peaceful — from the time they opened at 7 a.m. and ended at 4 p.m.
The second, third and fourth phase of the municipal polls will be held on October 10, 13 and 16. The vote count is due on October 20.
Long queues of enthusiastic voters were seen in almost all the municipal corporation and committee wards in Jammu district.
But the story in the Valley was starkly different, with most voters keeping away from the balloting centres amid a separatist called shutdown.
The polls took place amid a boycott by the two key parties in the state — the National Conference and People’s Democratic Party. The CPI-M is also boycotting the polls, leaving only Congress and BJP candidates besides independents in the contest in the valley.
In Ladakh region, a biting cold kept voters away early in the day. But polling picked up in both Kargil and Leh.
A presiding officer was suspended at Aloosa in Bandipora district for allowing a woman to accompany a voter to the voting counter.
Elections are being held in 422 of the state’s 1,145 municipal wards. As many as 1,204 candidates are in the fray.