J&K: 80 % electorate cast ballot panchayat polls
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Last Updated: Sunday, June 19, 2011, 13:31
Srinagar: Barring the killing of a woman panch candidate, the Panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir came to an end with nearly 80 per cent electorate exercising their franchise amidst militant threats and boycott calls by separatists.

Although polling will be held in Zanskar area of Ladakh region on June 27, the elections in rest of the state came to an end on Saturday, pulling curtains on the two-month long 16-phase process which began on April 13.

Polling was postponed in Zanskar, with just over 12,000 voters, as the area is still cut off by snow accumulated during winter.

Chief Election Officer BR Sharma said that 79 per cent voters cast their votes to elect the grassroots level representatives across the state.

Over 4100 sarpanches and nearly 30,000 panches have been elected in the 16-phase panchayat elections.

Besides affirming their belief in democratic process, the voters, especially in Kashmir, also demonstrated the communal harmony in the valley as 25 Sikhs and two Kashmiri Pandits were elected as panches in areas mostly inhabited by Muslims.

While panchayat elections were held peacefully across the state, the only blemish remained the killing of a woman panch in Pakherpora area of central Kashmir's Budgam district.

Hasina Akhtar was shot dead by gunmen on April 15 but police is investigating other angles to the murder other than militancy.

The panchayat elections were held on non-party basis which has given an opportunity to all the political parties to claim victory.

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led the charge by claiming that the ruling National Conference has been routed in the elections as candidates backed by the opposition party have swept the polls in Kashmir.

National Conference and its coalition partner Congress, on the other hand, are claiming a victory of their own.

To support their claims, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti and PCC president Saifuddin Soz have held series of meetings with newly-elected panches and sarpanches over the past eight weeks.

Interestingly, the panchs and sarpanchs have displayed far more political maturity than the parties as they have met everyone who came calling.

For example, Omar, Mehbooba and Soz met the panchs and sarpanchs in Ganderbal within a span of one week of the elections.

The last Panchayat elections were held in 2001 but polls could not be conducted in many areas of north Kashmir due to security reasons.

The last full panchayat election in the state was held 33 years ago.


First Published: Sunday, June 19, 2011, 13:31

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