49 percent voting in Phase-II of DDC elections

Long queues of voters at Poonch on Tuesday. —Excelsior/Gurjeetbhajan
Long queues of voters at Poonch on Tuesday. —Excelsior/Gurjeetbhajan

65.5 pc cast votes for 18 seats in Jammu region

Supporters of Cong, rebel candidates clash; FIR lodged

Sanjeev Pargal

JAMMU, Dec 1: Jammu region recorded 65.54 percent turnout in Phase-II of the District Development Council (DDC) elections in which 18 Territorial segments went to polls today across 10 districts further improving the voting percentage by 1.5 from the first phase when 64 percent turnout was recorded.
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Barring violent clash between supporters of Congress candidate from Surankote-A in Poonch district Choudhary Akram and Congress rebel Shahnawaz Choudhary in which one person was injured, polling remained peaceful in most of the areas except minor complaints, official sources told the Excelsior.
Poonch district topped voting percentage in the Jammu region with 75.07 while Kathua district recorded the lowest turnout of 60.1 percent, the figures released by the State Election Commission (SEC) at the end of polling said.
Polling percentage in other district was Kishtwar (61.64), Udhampur (62.51), Jammu (69.97), Ramban (66.23), Doda (64.8), Samba (66.38), Rajouri (60.21) and Reasi (69.27).
Significantly, voting percentage was above 60 in all 10 districts of Jammu region. SEC had set up 837 polling stations for 18 Territorial Constituencies of the region, the highest being 111 in Kathua district and lowest 51 in Samba.
Out of 3.88 lakh electorates in 18 Territorial Constituencies that went to polls today, 2.41 lakh cast their votes recording polling percentage of 65.54 in the Jammu region, up by 1.54 per cent from the first phase when 64 percent votes were polled on November 28.
Among 2.41 lakh electorates, who exercised their right to franchise in Jammu region, around 1.27 lakh were male and 1.13 lakh females.
Eighteen seats where polling was held today include Bhalwal Brahamna in Jammu district, Bari Brahamna-A and Bari Brahamna-B in Samba, Mahanpur and Mandli in Kathua, Panchari and Chenani in Udhampur, Gulabgarh and Mahore-A in Reasi, Mogla in Rajouri, Surankote-A and Surankote-B in Poonch, Banihal-A and Banihal-B in Ramban, Bhagwah and Kastigarh in Doda and Dachhan and Padder in Kishtwar district.
As many as 125 candidates were in fray for the Jammu seats.
By-elections were also held for Sarpanch and Panch constituencies for which counting was taken up immediately after the polling was over at 2 pm and most of the results had been declared by tonight. However, counting for the DDC elections will be taken up simultaneously for all 280 seats on December 22.
It may be mentioned here that 58 Sarpanchs (29 men and 29 women) and 804 Panchs (548 men and 256 women) have been elected unopposed.
Supporters of Congress candidate Choudhary Mohammad Akram, former MLA, and Independent candidate Shahnawaz Choudhary, also a Congress leader who had revolted against the party decision and joined the fray as rebel from Surankote-A Territorial Constituency in Poonch district, clashed this morning leading to injuries to one person.
Reports said Choudhary Akram, who happens to be son of former Minister Choudhary Mohammad Aslam and had represented Surankote Assembly seat in 2014, entered polling booth Chak Baro at Hari Marhot alleging rigging by the supporters of Shahnawaz Choudhary.
Supporters of Shahnawaz shouted slogans against Choudhary Akram. Later, supporters of both the leaders clashed at the polling station leading to suspension of voting for some time.
SSP Poonch Ramesh Angral said police teams reached the spot and restored the order. Polling resumed after 15 minutes.
A case FIR No. 185/20 under Sections 451, 323 and 171-C IPC has been registered against unknown supporters of the Congress Party.
The injured identified as Khadeem Hussain son of Abdul Gani of Hari Marhot has been admitted in the Sub District Hospital Surankote, Angral said.
Condeming the murderous attack on his booth agent at Chack Bero by Choudhary Akram, Shahnawaz Choudhary said, “ it’s very unfortunate that Akram is adopting all unfair means of money and muscle power to manipulate the elections. I demand strict action against the attackers and also appeal to the administration to ensure the safety of the ballot boxes to thwart any evil designs of the Akram and party.”
The officials said the scene outside polling stations across Jammu region was no different than what was witnessed in the first phase.
Authorities had made all necessary arrangements to ensure peaceful polling and to counter the spread of COVID-19 pandemic. However, reports said, at most of the places, there were such long queue of the people that it wasn’t possible to maintain six feet distance between the voters. Even the authorities especially the police personnel deployed inside the polling stations made no efforts to ensure social distancing. Some of the people could be seen wearing face masks.
Sanitizers were also missing at most of the polling stations.
Manjeet Singh, a resident of Meen Sarkar in Samba district, said after casting his vote that, “We believe in democracy and want it to be strengthened so that an ordinary citizen can reap the benefits of the development.”
He said he voted for development so that the problems being faced by locals are addressed and they are also provided with good healthcare facilities and proper infrastructure for students.
Anju Sharma, a young voter, welcomed the DDC elections but advocated for early Assembly polls to give a popular Government to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
The first phase of the eight-phased elections, marking the first democratic exercise in Jammu and Kashmir after abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir State into two Union Territories last year, was held on November 28 with nearly 52 percent electorate exercising their franchise in both divisions.
In Ramban, the polling under Phase-II of DDC polls was held for Banihal-A and Banihal-B constituencies. The enthusiastic voters had started reaching polling booths right in the morning and it picked up as the day progressed.
The voters exercised their right to franchise to decide the fate of 15 candidates, eight of them women.
The Phase II elections in Doda district were held for Bhagwah and Kastigarh DDC Constituencies and vacant Panchayat seats at 98 polling stations. The polling started at sharp 7 am in the morning and long queues were witnessed in all the polling booths.
In Rajouri, the polling for the second phase was held in the DDC constituency Mougla, Sarpanch constituency Junerial East and Panch constituency Breri.
The second phase polling in Kathua district was held for Mahanpur and Mandli DDC seats and by-polls for five Sarpanch and six Panch seats of the twin blocks.
The DDC election Phase- II in Udhampur district was held for Chenani and Panchari with 18 candidates in fray. Polling was also held for two vacant Sarpanch seats.
In Kishtwar district, the polling was held for Dachhan and Paddar DDC constituencies and a Sarpanch seat. In Reasi, the polling was held in the DDC constituency Gulabgarh and Mahore-A and Sarpanch constituency Neoch, while in Poonch, the DDC elections were held for Surankote-A and Surankote-B and Sarpanch constituency Middle Marhote.