Only 3.4 per cent out of 2.20 lakh electorate cast their votes in Kashmir, while 78.6 per cent of more 1.28 lakh voters exercised their franchise in Jammu on Wednesday in the second phase of municipal polls in the state, said poll officials. Overall, the second phase witnessed a turnout of 31.3 pe rcent out of total electorate of 3.47 lakh in the state.
According to the election commission officials, in two phases the overall turnout was 47.2 per cent in the state, including 67.7 per cent in Jammu and 8.3 per cent in Kashmir.
However, the first phase had seen a better turnout in Kashmir when 8.3 per cent of the voters exercised their franchise. In total, Jammu and Ladakh divisions had witnessed over 65 per cent of voting. According to the officials, 19 wards of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation, having an electorate of 1.78 lakh, witnessed a turnout of just 2.3 per cent.
Bandipora district, however, witnessed brisk polling as 34.2 per cent of the 8,300 voters exercised their franchise, the officials said.They said Sopore in north Kashmir and Anantnag in south Kashmir registered turnouts of 6.1 percent and 1.1 per cent respectively.Voters in Jammu region, however, voted enthusiastically in the second phase too, braving chilly weather conditions in the hills of Doda, Kishtwar, Ramban, Udhampur and Reasi districts, whose upper reaches experienced the season's first snowfall overnight.
The voting covering six districts of Kishtwar, Doda, Ramban, Reasi, Udhampur and Kathua recorded an average turnout of 76 per cent, the poll officials said.They said the highest turnout of 84.6 per cent was recorded in Reasi district followed by Kathua (80 per cent), Ramban (79.53 per cent), Udhampur (79.21 per cent), Kishtwar (74.75 per cent) and Doda (72.77 per cent).
The enthusiastic voters thronged the polling booths soon after the polling began at 6 am and waited in long queues for their turn as the polling completed in a peaceful manner amid tight security arrangements.The day-long polling in the Jammu region, however, was marred by the death of BJP candidate Azad Singh Raju (62) at a polling station.
Raju, a former employee of the Irrigation and Flood Control department died of heart attack at a polling booth in Ramban district shortly after the voting began, the officials said. The 2nd phase of polling has sealed the fate of 881 candidates, while four candidates have been elected unopposed in this phase in Jammu region.
The ongoing municipal polls in Jammu and Kashmir is being held amid the looming threat of militant violence and boycott by two key political parties - the PDP and NC.Kashmir witnessed low voter turnout despite election authorities having advanced the starting time of voting for the second phase by an hour to 6 am, half an hour before the day break.
The advancement of the time for start of the voting has led to fears among some political parties that it may be meant to manipulate the election process.Polling was held amidst stringent security measures at 544 polling stations across the state and ended at 4 pm.More than 1,000 candidates - 881 in Jammu division and 148 in Kashmir division - are in the fray for 263 municipal wards including 49 in Kashmir and 214 in Jammu.
As many as 65 candidates with 61 of them from Kashmir valley have already won the polls uncontested while in 56 wards, all in the valley - no nomination was filed, due to which no voting took place there, they said.Massive security arrangements were put in place for smooth conduct of the polls, the officials said, adding no untoward incident was reported during the polling.
Municipal elections, covering 79 local urban bodies with an electorate of about 17 lakh, are being held in four phases.
A total of 3,372 nominations have been filed for 1145 wards. The next phases are scheduled to take place on October 13 and 16.National Conference (NC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and CPI(M) have boycotted the polls due to the legal challenge to Article 35A of the Constitution in the Supreme Court.The government has declared holiday on the days of voting in the municipal areas going to polls so as to enable voters to cast their vote.
(With PTI inputs)