Polling for the second phase of local body elections in Jammu and Kashmir began before the crack of dawn this morning. The four-phase elections, being held in the state after 13 years, began on Monday and will end on October 16.
The second phase covers 384 wards in 13 districts across the state – seven of which are in the Valley, officials said. Over 1,000 candidates are participating in this election.
Officials said that security arrangements have been put in place for smooth conduct of the elections which will take place from 6 am to 4 pm. This is the first time when polling started over half an hour before sunrise.
Polling will take place in parts of Srinagar municipal corporation, Anantnag, three districts of Chenab Valley, Udhampur and Kathua districts.
But out of 12 municipal areas in the Valley, there will be no voting in seven where candidates have either been elected unopposed or the seats have remained vacant in the absence of any candidate.
The two main regional parties, the National Conference (NC) and the Mehbooba Mufti’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which boycotted the elections citing uncertainty over the centre’s stand on Article 35A of the Constitution have called the election a “mockery” of democratic process.
The change in voting timing by the election authorities has become a controversial issue. The polling time was advanced by an hour, from 6 am to 4 pm. The opposition alleges that starting the voting before daylight is aimed at facilitating bogus voting.
Polling on Monday was by and large peaceful in the four phase election to urban local bodies, which has been boycotted by two main regional parties — the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The Election Commission has already come under criticism for keeping the names of candidates a secret.
In most of the 600 municipal wards in Kashmir, people don’t know who their candidates are. Officials say the names of the candidates are not revealed because of security concerns.