Highest 79.9 pc turnout recorded in 8th Phase

Long queues of voters at Bajalta in Jammu (left) and Kupwara in Kashmir on Saturday. —Excelsior pics by Rakesh & Aabid Nabi
Long queues of voters at Bajalta in Jammu (left) and Kupwara in Kashmir on Saturday. —Excelsior pics by Rakesh & Aabid Nabi

Panchayat polls completed in Jammu region
85.1% voting in Jammu, 49.6% in Kashmir

Sanjeev Pargal / Fayaz Bukhari
JAMMU/SRINAGAR, Dec 8: Panchayat elections in Jammu region concluded with the end of eighth phase of polling today with massive 85.1 percent turnout of voters while overall voting percentage in 10 districts of the State stood at 79.9 with Kashmir region accounting for impressive 49.6 percent turnout in the penultimate phase. Last and ninth phase of polling on December 11 will be confined to the Valley only.
The overall voting percentage of 79.9 registered today was highest among all eight phases of election held so far, the previous highest being 76.9 percent in sixth phases.

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Polling was today held for 331 Panchayats spread over 10 districts of the State including Reasi, Kathua, Samba, Jammu and Rajouri districts in Jammu region and Kupwara, Bandipora, Baramulla, Srinagar and Budgam in Kashmir.
Official sources told the Excelsior that Reasi district in Jammu region recorded highest voting percentage of 89.8 in today’s polling followed by Jammu district with 84.8 percent, Kathua and Samba districts at 84 percent each and Rajouri 82.4 percent.
Among five districts of Kashmir, Baramulla topped with 56.9 percent voting and Kupwara 53.8 percent. Bandipora recorded 18 percent polling, Srinagar 11.6 percent and Budgam 9.1 percent.
Polling was by and large peaceful in all five districts of Jammu region with no major untoward incident reports anywhere barring verbal exchanges among supporters of the candidates at few places. Counting also progressed smoothly after voting process was over at 2 pm and by midnight tonight, the Returning Officers/Assistant Returning Officers had declared majority of results.
In the seventh phase, violent incidents were reported from some parts of Poonch, Rajouri and Jammu districts.
Today’s polling of 85.1 percent in Jammu region was second highest in all phases, the highest being 85.2 percent in the fifth phase. Significantly, voting percentage in Jammu region remained close to 80 percent or above in all eight phases of Panchayat elections.
Lowest voting turnout of 79.4 percent was registered in the first phase and it went up to 80.4 percent in second phase and 83 percent in third phase. It came down a bit at 82.4 percent in fourth phase but went up to 85.2 percent in fifth phase. The turnout was 84.6 percent in sixth phase and 84.8 percent in seventh phase.
Overall turnout in all eight phases of elections stood as 74.1, 71.1, 75.2, 71.3, 71.1, 76.9, 75.3 and 79.9.
In Kashmir division, highest turnout of 64.5 percent was recorded in Phase-I, which came down to 52.2 percent in Phase-II but again went up to 55.7 in Phase-III. It, however, came down to 32.3 percent in Phase-IB and was 33.7 percent in Phase-V. In Phase-VI and VII, voting percentage in Kashmir stood at 17.3 and 30.3 percent. Today’s turnout in the Valley was 49.6 percent.
Despite subzero temperatures, mainstream parties of National Conference and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) staying away from the process and boycott called by separatists’ around 50 percent polling was witnessed in Kashmir in the 8th Phase of Panchayat Polls today in the Valley.
In Boniyar area of Uri in district Baramulla, large number of voters were in a queue to cast their votes since early morning despite cold weather conditions.
Mukhtar Ahmad, a voter standing in a queue at Boniyar said that he is voting for the development of the village. “Every political party whether it is NC, PDP or Congress have given us hardships only. Despite living in digital world, we are yet to see any development in the area. Our focus is on basic infrastructure like roads, water, electricity and other basic amenities”, he said.
In Budgam, majority of the people stayed away from polling. Majority of the polling booths were deserted. However, few voters turned up to cast vote amid tight security in and around polling booths.
Today’s voting was held for 331 Panchayats including 331 Sarpanchs and 2007 Panchs for which 6304 candidates were in fray. As many as 43 Sarpanchs and 681 Panchs had been elected unopposed in today’s phase.
Sources said 2633 polling stations had been set up for today’s voting including 550 in Kashmir and 2083 in Jammu division.
They said 361polling stations were categorized as hypersensitive in today’s Phase including 171 in Kashmir division and 190 in Jammu.
An electorate of 5,15,121 were eligible for voting for Sarpanch constituencies and 4,19,775 for Panch constituencies.