As many as 2,990 candidates are in the fray for the four-phased urban local bodies (ULB) polls in Jammu and Kashmir, where nearly 500 over ground workers (OGWs) have been arrested to ensure peaceful polling scheduled to begin next week after a gap of eight years, officials said on Saturday.
The polls are scheduled to begin on October 8, followed by the second phase on October 10, third phase on October 13 and last phase on October 16. The counting of votes will be done on October 20.
As many as 244 candidates have been elected unopposed, majority of them from Kashmir valley where candidates braved terrorist threats to take part in the democratic exercise. Two mainstream state parties — National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party — have boycotted the polls over the challenge to the validity of Article 35-A of the Constitution.
CPI(M) and BSP are the other two parties which have also stayed away from the municipal polls, leaving the BJP and the Congress in a direct contest. However, the two parties cannot ignore the resurgent National Panthers Party (NPP) especially in Jammu region and independent candidates.
“A total of 2,990 candidates are in the fray for the four-phased elections. Majority are trying their luck from Jammu province with 2,137 candidates, 787 from Kashmir and 66 from Ladakh region”, an official of the state election commission told PTI as the last date forwithdrawal of candidature in the last phase ended on Friday.
As many as 3,372 candidates have filed their nominations for the four-phased elections. The last election to the municipal bodies in the state was held in 2005 through secret ballot and the term of five years expired in February 2010.
There are 16,97,291 eligible voters in the 1,145 wards across the state. Kashmir valley has the highest number of wards with 598 and an electorate of 10,32,498, while Jammu province has 521 wards with 6,44,568 voters. Ladakh region has 26 wards with electorate of 20,225.
The official said 231 candidates were elected unopposed in Kashmir and 13 in Jammu region. Two wards, one each in Kulgam and Pulwama districts of south Kashmir, did not attract any nomination apparently due to the terror threat, even as the police have arrested about 500 OGWs over the past one week across Kashmir as part of the security plan to ensure free and fair elections, officials said.
“About 450 to 500 OGWs of militants who were issuing threats and hatching conspiracies to sabotage the election process were arrested over the past one week,” Director General of state Police Dilbag Singh said.
He said the police and other security agencies were fully prepared to face any kind of situation for smooth conduct of the polls.
In first phase, 1,283 candidates are in the fray with 1,010 from Jammu, 207 from Kashmir and 66 from Ladakh for 422 wards (247 in Jammu, 149 in Kashmir, 26 in Ladakh), the official said.
The second phase will seal the fate of 1,094 contestants in 218 wards in Jammu region and 166 wards in Kashmir valley, the official said, adding that 61 candidates got elected unopposed in this phase.
In the third phase, a total of 411 candidates are trying their luck — 242 in 56 wards of Jammu province and 169 in 151 wards of Kashmir valley, the official said. Forty nine candidates got elected unopposed in this phase, the official said.
Similarly, 202 candidates are in the fray for the fourth and final phase under which are 132 wards. Fifty two candidates were elected unopposed in this phase.
Out of the total 1,145 wards of municipality and local bodies, 90 wards have been reserved for Scheduled Castes (SC) and 38 for Scheduled Tribes (ST), which include 31 and 13 wards reserved for SC and ST women respectively, he said.
In addition to this, 322 wards have been reserved for women belonging to the open category, the officer said.
The Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) has the highest number of electors with 6,63,775 persons in 74 wards, followed by Jammu Municipal Corporation (JMC) with 75 wards and 4,00,301 electors, he said.
The official said Jammu Municipal Corporation has the highest number of contestants with 447, whose fate would be sealed in the first phase on October 8, while 274 candidates are in the fray for Srinagar Municipal Corporation which is going to polls in all the four phases.