Srinagar: The first of the four phases of urban local bodies elections in Jammu and Kashmir which began Monday morning in the first such polls in 13 years drew tepid response in Kashmir Valley with Kupwara recording the highest with just 18% voter turnout till 11 am while Rajouri in Jammu division topped with 55%.
The voting percentage was in single digit in Anantnag, Budgam, Bandipora, Baramula and Srinagar, according to an official statement.
In Jammu division, the response was better with longer queues seen outside polling booths. Jammu recorded 34% voter turnout while in Poonch the figure was 47%. Kargil saw 33% voting while 26% of the electorate voted in Leh till 11 am.
The elections are taking place under heavy security after militants warned candidates not to contest the polls which are being held for the first time since 2013.
As many as 2990 candidates are in the fray for the elections which will end on October 16.
Today’s elections are being held for 422 wards out of a total of 1,145. The initial voter turnout has been tepid with only 75 votes cast in three wards in Srinagar in the first two hours, election officials said.
The media was stopped outside Handwara and Kupwara towns before being allowed in. But reporters were not allowed near polling booth to “ensure safety of voters”, a senior government official in Kupwara said.
Mobile Internet services have been suspended in south Kashmir in the view of the first phase of urban local bodies elections. Mobile Internet speed has been reduced to 2G in other parts of the Kashmir Valley.
“In Kashmir division, 138 polling stations have been categorized as hypersensitive while in Jammu division 52 polling stations have been categorized as hypersensitive,” news agency IANS quoted Kabra as saying.
The state’s two main parties —the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) — have boycotted the elections which has turned the electoral battle into a direct contest between the Congress and the BJP.