J&K: 80 % electorate cast ballot panchayat polls

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.

PTI



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

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