The four-phased urban local body elections will begin in Jammu and Kashmir on Monday amid heightened security and a call by the Joint Resistance Leadership asking people to stay away from the electoral exercise.
According to J&K’s chief electoral officer Shaleen Kabra, the voting in the first phase will take place at 820 polling stations across the state from 7 am to 4 pm. He said that 150 polling stations have been designated for voting in Kashmir division and 670 in Jammu division.
The CEO said that 1204 candidates are in the fray for 321 municipal wards (in Phase-I), including 83 in Kashmir division and 238 in Jammu division.
“The total electorate for phase-I is 586064,” he said and added that Basic Minimum Facilities (BMF) have been ensured in all the polling stations across the state for voting.
In Kashmir division 138 polling stations have been categorised as hypersensitive while in Jammu division 52 polling stations have been categorised as hypersensitive and for the phase-I, 78 candidates have already been elected unopposed.
According to an official, 422 wards were set to go for the polls in the first phase, but the number has come down to 321 because no candidate is in contest for 23 wards, while only one candidate each had filed nomination for 78 wards, paving way for their unopposed victory.
The ULB polls are taking place after a gap of 13 years. The last such exercise was conducted in 2005 during the PDP-Congress government in Jammu and Kashmir.
Despite the Joint Resistance Leadership has asked the people to boycott the exercise saying it is “no substitute for the right to self-determination and resolution of Kashmir issue.” The Governor’s administration decided to go ahead with the civic polls despite two major mainstream political parties—National Conference and People’s Democratic Party—deciding against participation in the electoral exercise, citing legal challenge to Article 35-A of the Constitution in the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, in a statement, CEO Kabra said senior government officers have been appointed as general observers to ensure the “smooth, fair and orderly conduct of polls.”
“Expenditure observers are also keeping a watch on the expenditure by the candidates,” he said and added that for the poll day, micro observers have been deployed in polling stations, particularly those considered sensitive/hypersensitive.
“Besides, the zonal and sector magistrates have been deployed to ensure smooth conduct of polls as well as monitoring the entire process,” the CEO said and added that the deputy commissioners are undertaking videography of all “critical events related to the poll process.”
The government has also declared holiday on the day of poll in municipal areas going to polls to enable the voters to cast their vote. He said as per standing guidelines, the central government offices shall not be closed but the employees who are electors of the wards going for polls and desire to exercise their franchise shall be offered reasonable facility—by way of coming late to office/ allowed to leave office early/short absence.