Nearly 7 lakh voters will decide the fate of 296 candidates in 43 constituencies that are going to the polls on Saturday in the first ever election to the District Development Councils (DDC) across Jammu and Kashmir.
While 124 candidates, including 30 women, are in the fray in 18 constituencies in Jammu division, another 172 candidates, including 59 women, are contesting the elections on 25 seats in Kashmir Valley. Polling will take place from 7 am to 2 pm.
Jammu and Kashmir Election Commissioner K K Sharma denied the National Conference and the PDP’s allegation that their candidates were not being allowed to campaign, and said that the candidates and their leaders in Kashmir were provided a schedule for campaigning by the security agencies. This, he said, applies to everyone in view of the security situation.
The 20 districts in the Union Territory of J&K have been divided into 14 constituencies each. The elections to all of them are being held in eight phases through ballot paper, beginning Saturday.
Besides the DDC polls, by-elections for 1,088 sarpanch and more than 12,000 panch positions are also being held simultaneously. Of them, 43 sarpanch and 368 panch constituencies are going to the polls in the first phase on Saturday.
While 279 candidates, including 89 women, are in the fray for 43 sarpanch positions, there are 852 candidates, including 217 women, for panch positions in constituencies going to the polls in the first phase.
Election Commissioner Sharma said that 36 sarpanch and 768 panch candidates stand elected unopposed before the first phase of polling. Most of these candidates are in the Valley.
With ballot papers being used for these polls, the state Election Commission said ballot boxes have been brought from other states such as Haryana and Chhattisgarh as well. Asked why the elections were not held on EVMs, Sharma said this was not possible in view of non-availability of these machines in such a large number. Moreover, he said, panchayat elections all over the country are held on ballot paper.
Pointing out that all arrangements have been made for a smooth conduct of the first phase of DDC elections and panch and sarpanch by-elections, Sharma said the candidates can campaign anywhere in view of the arrival of 145 companies of central armed police forces, who along with UP Police, have been deployed all over the UT.
On mortar shelling and firing by Pakistani troops in border areas at regular intervals, Sharma said alternate arrangements have been made to shift the polling station and the electorate in case of any eventuality.
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