Jammu and Kashmir witnessed 56.7 per cent polling in the first phase of Urban Local Bodies elections, which has mainly been a contest between the BJP and the Congress after the two key local parties - the National Conference and Mehbooba Mufti's PDP - pulled out. In 13 municipal committees across six districts of the Kashmir valley where polling was held, the voter turnout was just 8 per cent. In state capital Srinagar, 6.2 per cent people turned up to vote.
Altogether, 422 of the state's 1,100 municipal wards -- 149 seats in the Valley and 26 in the Ladakh, Jammu and Pir Panjal region - went to polls today. The BJP has said that it has got control over seven municipal committees in Kashmir Valley as 75 of its nominees have been elected unopposed.
Under the watchful eyes of 40,000 paramilitary personnel, polling for the election -- which is being held after 13 years -- had started slowly in the morning. But it picked up later and the final figures released by the state Election Commission was way ahead of the 50 per cent mark.
The PDP and the National Conference - 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.
"Anywhere in the world where you have a democratic process, you don't hear of an example that candidates are not known, they are kept secret. This means that the government, which is at war with the people, is not conducting the democratic process," said Rohullah Mehdi, the chief spokesman of the National Conference.
Governor Satyapal Malik, who was tasked with holding peaceful elections, brushed away their contention. "Kashmir is not only these two parties. My opinion not based on information from officials, I am directly communicating with youngsters. They are disillusioned with Hurriyat, not very keen on these two parties, and don't want anything to do with Pakistan," the Governor told NDTV.
Elsewhere in the state -- in Jammu, Ladkah and Pir Panjal regions, the polling has been brisk. Rajouri recorded highest turnout -- 81 per cent, followed by 78 per cent in Kargil.
The 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.
The second phase of the elections will be held on October 10, the third phase on October 13 and the last phase on October 16. Counting of votes will take place on October 20.
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