All time high 85.2 pc turnout in Jammu, 33.7 in Kashmir

Voters wait for their turn to exercise their right to franchise (left) in Doda and (right) in Mattan, Anantnag on Thursday. —Excelsior pics by Rafi Choudhary and Sajad Dar
Voters wait for their turn to exercise their right to franchise (left) in Doda and (right) in Mattan, Anantnag on Thursday. —Excelsior pics by Rafi Choudhary and Sajad Dar

Phase-V voting, counting remain violence-free
Long queues in Kupwara under sub-zero temps
Sanjeev Pargal/Fayaz Bukhari
JAMMU/Srinagar, Nov 29: Jammu region recorded massive 85.2 percent turnout, the highest in five phases of Panchayat elections held so far as voting in all 309 Panchayats was conducted peacefully in the State with Kashmir region also accounting for reasonably good voting percentage of 33.7 notwithstanding just .5 percent polling in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district.
Reasi district in its just first phase of polling today registered whopping 89.1 percent polling, the highest for any district today as well as in the five phases of elections so far, official sources told the Excelsior. Panchayat elections are being held in nine phases with last phase scheduled to be held on December 11.
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Barring minor incidents of claims and counter claims and verbal exchanges among candidates or their supporters, the voting as well as counting all across the State passed off peacefully, sources said, adding counting for all 309 Sarpanch and 1534 Panch seats was almost completed by midnight tonight barring few without any major dispute.
While voting was held between 8 am to 2 pm, counting was taken up immediately thereafter.
Overall voting percentage in the fifth phase today stood at 71.1 percent. The turnout was 85.2 percent in Jammu region and 33.7 percent in Kashmir, Chief Electoral Officer, Shaleen Kabra said.
After 89.1 percent voting in Reasi, Jammu district accounted for 88.9 percent, Ramban 85.2, Poonch 84.5, Doda 83.3, Rajouri 82.8 and Udhampur 82 percent.
In Kashmir region, Kupwara district witnessed 42.5 percent voting, Budgam 34.8, Bandipora 34.6, Baramulla 32.9, Ganderbal 20.3, Anantnag 10.1 and Pulwama .5 per cent.
Today’s turnout of 85.2 percent in Jammu region was highest in all five phases of elections to the Panchayats held so far. In first phase of polling, Jammu had recorded 79.4 percent polling while in second phase, the voting percentage went up to 80.4. It again jumped to 83 percent in third phase but slightly came down to 82.4 percent in the fourth phase.
Similarly, in Kashmir division, voting turnout during first phase was 64.5, which came down to 52.2 percent in the second phase but again went up to 55.7 in third phase. However, it declined to 32.3 percent in the fourth phase.
Amid freezing cold in Kashmir, 33.7 percent polling was witnessed in Kashmir despite separatists calling for strike in poll bound areas of the Valley.
Long queues of voters were witnessed in Kupwara under subzero temperatures and people were enthusiastic about taking part in the exercise. Nazir Ahmad who was waiting in a queue in Kupwara village said that they are voting for betterment of the village. He said that Panchayats give power to the people at grass root level and they want to use the power for developmental works of the village.
However, in Pulwama’s Tral villages of Chatergam, Devar, Gameraaz and Shaaldraman, the polling stations were deserted. This being a highly militancy infested area, security around the booths was very tight.
In Chatergam village of Tral, Amlok Singh son of Lakhman Singh of Ward No 4 won Panch election against Budh Singh son of Aaya Singh by 2 votes and Balwant Singh son of Kartar Singh of Ward No 7 won by 2 votes defeating Ranjeet Singh son of Sukha Singh.
Peela Moti Panditha daughter of Moti Lal Panditha of Diver presently living in Jammu won Sarpanch election by 20 votes against Nanki Kour wife of Nirmal Singh of Gamraz village.
Large queues could be seen outside Akhnoor, Maira Mandrian, Chowki Choura and Mathwar blocks of Jammu district which went to polls today with people including large number of women queuing up well before start of the voting at 8 am to elect the Sarpanchs and Panchs of their choice.
“We have got the change to elect the Sarpanchs and Panchs of our choice after seven and half year. We don’t want to waste this chance. We were anxiously waiting for this opportunity, which has been provided by the Governor’s administration,” said a group of women waiting outside a polling station in Mathwar for casting their vote.
There was no let up in enthusiasm among the voters at other places like Doda, Ramban, Udhampur, Reasi, Rajouri and Poonch districts of Jammu region with people turning up in large numbers to exercise their right to franchise. All of them were unanimous that Constitution of elected Panchayats will lead to development of their areas.
An official handout said Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam camped in Srinagar to monitor the election process on the instructions of Governor Satya Pal Malik.
As many as 1164 candidates including 118 Sarpanchs and 1046 Panchs have been elected as unopposed in today’s fifth phase of Panchayat elections.
The Election Authority had set up 2512 polling stations including 769 in Kashmir division and 1743 in Jammu range. Of them, 848 polling stations had been categorized as hypersensitive including 755 in Kashmir division and 93 in Jammu range.
A total of 4763 candidates were in the fray for 309 Sarpanch and 1534 Panch seats in today’s election even as 118 Sarpanchs and 1046 Panchs had been elected unopposed.
Total electorates of 4,04,283 were eligible to cast their votes for Sarpanch constituencies and 2,70,295 for Panch constituencies.
Senior Government officers had been appointed as General Observers to oversee the smooth, fair and orderly conduct of Panchayat elections. Also, Expenditure Observers kept a watch on the expenditure by the candidates. In addition, for the poll day, Micro Observers were deployed at the polling stations, particularly those considered hypersensitive. Besides, the Zonal and Sector Magistrates were too deputed.
The Control Rooms had been established in all the districts across the State to respond promptly to any complaints of violation of the Model Code of Conduct as also to disseminate information to the public. Adequate security arrangements had been made including deployment of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF).