SRINAGAR: Polling for the first phase of urban local body elections in Jammu and Kashmir is currently underway on Monday amid unprecedented security arrangements put in place by the state authorities and the election commission. Polling is being held in 422 wards spread over a dozen districts.
The polling, which began at 7 AM, will seal the fate of 1,283 candidates - the highest in any phase - who are trying their luck from 247 wards in Jammu, 149 in Kashmir and 26 in Ladakh.
According to ANI, polling began in 11 districts in the first of the four phases of urban local bodies elections.
— ANI (@ANI) October 8, 2018
While the candidates have left no stone unturned to woo the voters in the Jammu and Ladakh regions, the campaigning has been a low-key affair in the Kashmir Valley, where threats, violence and boycott by the state's two main parties - the National Conference (NC) and the People's Democratic Party (PDP) - have cast a shadow over the polls.
The first phase of polling will be followed by the second phase covering 384 wards on October 10, third phase covering 207 wards on October 13 and the last phase covering 132 wards on October 16.
The counting of votes will be done on October 20.
The last election to the municipal bodies in the state was held in 2005 through secret ballots and the five-year term expired in February, 2010.
As many as 2,990 candidates are in the fray for the four-phased elections covering a total of 1,145 wards, including the municipal corporations for the twin capitals of Jammu and Srinagar.
As many as 2,137 candidates are in fray from Jammu, 787 from Kashmir and 66 from Ladakh.
As many as 244 candidates - 231 in Kashmir and 13 in Jammu - have been declared elected unopposed.
Meanwhile, four-hundred additional companies of central paramilitary forces have been deployed to augment the existing strength of the security forces deployed to provide a secured atmosphere to the poll process.
Extra-ordinary security arrangements have been put in place in Srinagar where voting is scheduled to be held in three wards for the city`s municipal corporation.
Scores of motorbikes were seized by the police at various check posts in the city on Saturday and on Sunday with incomplete documents or in cases where the bikers had violated traffic rules.
All vehicles entering the city were being thoroughly checked.
A senior police officer said these are basically area domination operations to ensure that mischief mongers are prevented from disturbing the poll process
All contesting candidates have been lodged in secured accommodations provided to them by the authorities.
"Areas around the polling booths have been sanitized to ensure free and fair poll on Monday," the officer said.
Hi-tech electronic surveillance equipment is also being used to strengthen human intelligence in areas where polling is scheduled.
In addition to three municipal corporation 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, Leh and Kargil in the Ladakh region is scheduled for Monday.
In the Jammu region, polling for municipal committees of Bishnah, Arnia, RS Pura, Akhnoor, Khour, Jurian, Rajouri, Thanamandi, Nowshera, Kalakote, Sunderbani, Poonch and Surankote will also take place on Monday.
In addition, voting will also be held in wards of Jammu municipal corporation.
The biggest challenge for the Governor Satyapal Mallik-led state administration is to ensure security for the voters.
Mainstream political parties including the National Conference (NC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), CPI M, Peoples Democratic Front (PDF) headed by Hakim Yaseen and the Democratic Party Nationalist (DPN) headed by Ghulam Hassan Mir have decided to stay away from these polls.
Separatists have appealed people not to participate in the poll process and also announced a Valley wide protest shutdown.
(With Agency Inputs)