Jammu: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Sunday expressed his happiness over the peaceful conduct of the panchayat elections in the Kashmir Valley and Jammu region, tempering his excitement with the fear of resistance to the empowerment of the local bodies emerging from within the system.
"We concluded the panchayat elections in the Valley yesterday (Saturday). I never in my wildest dreams expected such a smooth ride through 16 phases," Abdullah posted on Twitter on Sunday morning.
He was referring to the conclusion of the 15th phase of the panchayat polls in the Kashmir Valley on Saturday which recorded a more than 78 percent turnout.
The last phase of the polls is in three blocks in Ladakh region on June 18.
The 15th phase was the last in the Kashmir Valley, which had witnessed almost negligible turnout in the 2001 panchayat polls.
The Chief Minister has been time and again referring to the normal panchayat elections after 33 years, the last being in 1978.
The polls in 2001 were marred by violence, threats and absence of candidates and voters in the Valley.
The elections this time saw unprecedented voters` participation, which at places touched 90 percent. The lowest turnout recorded was not less than 70 percent despite the boycott call by hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani.
In another tweet, Abdullah wrote: "It`s for the first time in 33 years that we will have a panchayat system in place. The easy job of elections is behind us, now the tough bit."
The reference is to the reservations that ministers and legislators have about empowering the panchayats and also about possible resistance from bureaucrats.
"The resistance to empowering them from within the system will have to be tactfully dealt with, but with a strong will, a way normally emerges," he tweeted.