Jammu and Kashmir will vote today in the fourth and final phase of civic polls, amid an election boycott by regional parties. While polling was originally scheduled to take place for 132 municipal wards, only 37 wards will now vote due to the boycott. Single candidates contesting elections from the remaining wards have been elected unopposed, while other wards will remain vacant. The state’s aggregate voter turnout in the last three phases was 41 per cent, the lowest in the history of Jammu and Kashmir.
The third phase of elections, held last week, saw a voter turnout of only 16 per cent, with people from the Valley choosing to stay away. People from Jammu however, drove the voting percentage up to 81.4.
In Jammu’s Samba district, 82 per cent voted in the third phase, whereas voter turnout in south Kashmir’s Anantnag nose-dived to 3.2 per cent.
Srinagar witnessed a humiliating voter turnout of just 1.8 per cent, possibly due to a boycott call by two key parties: the Peoples Democratic Party or PDP and the National Conference or NC.
Terror-hit Baramulla in north Kashmir however, saw a 75.3 per cent turnout.
Only 3.5 per cent votes were cast in the third phase of the elections.
While the elections have remained largely peaceful across all phases, the centre has deployed an additional 400 companies of paramilitary forces for the last election phase to assist the existing security apparatus.
Municipal elections are being held after a gap of 13 years in the state. The PDP and the National Conference have called the election a “mockery” of democracy.
The reason for their boycott call, according to them, was uncertainty over the centre’s stand on Article 35A of the Constitution. Article 35A defines permanent residents of the state and excludes outsiders from owning property and getting benefits like government jobs. Passed through a Presidential order in 1954, the Article has been challenged in Supreme Court, which deferred the hearing to January after a request from the centre, which cited the local bodies’ elections.