2.12 lakh exercise right to franchise in Jammu in peaceful polling
* Reasi Distt tops in percentage
JAMMU, Nov 28: Eight-phase voting process for first-ever election to the District Development Councils (DDCs) began on a significantly high turnout across the Union Territory with 51.76 percent of total 7,00,842 electorates exercising their right to franchise for 43 out of 280 seats which went to polls today in Phase-I including 25 in Kashmir and 18 in Jammu with Reasi district recording highest 74.62 percent polling while Pulwama district in South Kashmir accounted for minimum 6.7 percent.
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Eighteen DDC seats of Jammu division that went to polls today include Akhnoor and Maira Mandrian in Jammu district, Bufliaz in Poonch, Purmandal (Samba), Bani and Lohai Malhar (Kathua), Dudu-Basantgarh and Latti Marothi (Udhampur), Budhal New (Rajouri), Chassana and Chassana-A (Reasi), Khari, Ramsoo-A and Ramsoo-B (Ramban) and Marwah and Warwan in Kishtwar.
Voting turnout was comparatively high in 10 districts of Jammu division as compared to Kashmir. It include 55.16 percent in Kishtwar, 64.49 Doda, 64.21 Ramban, 74.62 Reasi, 57.13 Udhampur, 62.92 Kathua, 68.61 Samba, 61.49 Jammu, 70.52 Rajouri and 68.69 in Poonch district.
Polling percentage for the Jammu region was 64. Out of 3.31 lakh voters who were eligible to cast their votes in 18 DDC seats, 2.12 lakh exercised their right to franchise, which, according to observers, is very healthy sign and will set momentum for rest of the seven phases when percentage could even go up.
All major political parties including BJP, Congress, National Conference, PDP, Apni Party, Nationalist Panthers Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and other smaller groups have fielded their candidates in the DDC elections and the campaigning was quite aggressive by the BJP which fielded several Union Ministers and national leaders for the campaign. However, candidates of other political parties campaigned themselves or were joined by the local leaders.
There was massive enthusiasm among the voters on all 18 seats spread over 10 districts of Jammu region with people including women turning out in large numbers to cast their votes for the first electoral exercise post August 5, 2019 decisions of the Central Government when special status of J&K was scrapped and it was converted into two Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh.
As the State Election Commission (SEC) had fixed polling hours from 7 am to 2 pm, reports said people in hilly areas like Khari in Ramban, Chassana in Reasi, Dudu in Udhampur and Lohai Malhar in Kathua started queuing up outside polling stations much before starting time of the polling and, at some places, the voting continued till 3 pm as all those who had entered the polling station by 2 pm were allowed to cast their vote.
However, voting in plain areas of Jammu district where two DDC constituencies of Akhnoor and Maira Mandrian went to polls and in Samba district where voting was held today for lone seat of Purmandal, the polling gathered pace after 9 am and it was brisk and continued at many polling stations till 3 pm.
Polling was completely peaceful in all 18 DDC constituencies of Jammu division, police officials said, adding no major complaint was received from any of the segments. Police and paramilitary personnel had been deployed in strength at all the polling stations.
“Enthusiasm among the voters was witnessed in all the 43 DDC constituencies which went to polls today. The men, women and young voters thronged the polling stations, adhering the COVID-19 protocols,” State Election Commissioner KK Sharma told a press conference here this evening.
He said a total of 3.62 lakh voters including 1.69 women voters exercised their franchise and there was a balanced participation which is a good sign for the democracy.
“The security situation was also normal and the credit goes for the successful conclusion of the first phase of the elections to all the voters, political parties and Independent candidates contesting the elections,” he said adding a minor stone pelting incident at a polling station in Kulgam happened and the concerned police had taken cognizance of it.
He said the voting percentage with regard to Panch and Sarpanch seats was being compiled as counting of votes is in progress and it will take some time.
He said the counting of votes for the DDC constituencies will be held on December 22.
After the successful conclusion of the first phase, Sharma said the focus has shifted to the second phase of the DDC elections which is taking place on December 1.
“We have also the same number of 43 DDC constituencies in the second phase of polling and the total number of candidates in the fray for this phase is 321 – 125 candidates in 18 seats of Jammu division and 196 candidates in 25 constituencies of Kashmir division,” he added.
Sharma said 164 vacant seats of Sarpanches and 1815 vacant constituencies of Panches will also go to the polls in the second phase, for which a total of 2762 polling stations have been set up across Jammu and Kashmir for over seven lakh voters.
The people started thronging the polling stations immediately after the commencement of the voting at 7 am. We know it is chilly weather in November but it is not compulsory for people to rush to polling stations at the start of the polling,” he said.
Sharma said there are young voters and the idea behind early start of the polling is to ensure completion of the polling, while there are also Panch and Sarpanch seats located in remote pockets and the counting of votes takes place at the polling stations after the completion of the exercise on the same day.
In response to another question about shifting of some polling stations last evening, he said “we do not usually change the polling stations at the last moment but sometimes, it is needed due to weather conditions.”
“The polling stations were shifted in some hard areas (where there was snowfall) at the request of the District Election Officers and the process was done as per the election law. A few polling stations were adjusted for the benefit of the voters,” he said.
He also appealed to the voters in rest of the phases to follow the guidelines during interactions with candidates and the voting.
“We have deployed Health department officials and there was no complaint of violation of COVID-related protocols. The polling is taking place in seven more phases and therefore the people are appealed to follow the guidelines so that we have successful polling at the end of all the eight phases,” the SEC said
Meanwhile, the SEC has imposed restrictions on conduct of exit polls till the last of the eight-phase DDC election is completed.
An order to this effect was issued today by the SEC.
“In exercise of powers conferred under Section 36 of the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, 1989, the Election Authority (State Election Commission) hereby prohibits the conduct of any exit poll and publishing or publicizing/displaying the result of exit poll by means of the print or electronic media or in any other manner in the ongoing DDC elections, till the hour fixed for conclusion of poll in the last phase of these elections – 2:00 PM on December 19,” Sharma said in his order.