The third phase of Panchayat polls in Jammu & Kashmir was concluded peacefully amidst tight security on Saturday. Polling was carried out in Ramban, Kishtwar, Doda, Kathua, Udhampur, Rajouri and Poonch districts of the Jammu division. Whereas, in the valley third phase of polling was held in Ganderbal, Badgam, Kupwara, Baramulla and Bandipora in addition to Leh and Kargil districts of the Ladakh region.
The panchayat elections saw people turning up in large numbers to exercise their electoral right. 75.2% polling was recorded across Jammu & Kashmir, according to the Chief Electoral Officer, Shaleen Kabra, an overwhelming 83% polling was witnessed in Jammu division and 55.67% in Kashmir division.
Out of the three polls of the scheduled nine, this phase saw highest voter turnout as compared to 74.1% and 71.1% in first and second phase of polling respectively. According to the Shaleen Kabra, 727 polling stations were labeled as hypersensitive – 493 in Kashmir and 234 in Jammu.
Around 5,239 candidates were contesting for 358 Sarpanch and 1,652 Panch seats, 96 Sarpanches and 1,437 Panches have been elected unopposed in this phase. “Photo Voter Slips had been distributed among the voters to inform them of their polling station,” the CEO said.
Voter turnout in the Jammu division was around 83% with 85.2% voters turning out in Ramban and Kishtwar districts. In the Ladakh region, 75.6% voters cast their votes in Kargil district whereas 64.1 per cent voters did so in Leh district. In the valley it was 55%, Kupwara recorded the highest turnout with 59%. The last phase of voting from the scheduled 9 will be held on 11 December.
The most interesting part of these elections is National Conference (NC) and Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) boycotting it. The massive voter-turnout that came out to exercise their franchise is a testimony to the fact that people aren’t afraid of threats coming from militant groups anymore.
Earlier, during the second phase of polling a Hizb-ul Mujahideen commander was caught on tape instructing his sub-ordinate to pour acid into the eyes of those who were contesting the panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir.
In an audio clip that went viral, the commander, identified as Riyaz Naikoo, tells another militant, identified as Abbas, that they should not kill anyone contesting the polls but pour acid into their eyes and “cut their limbs”. In the viral audio clip, Abbas is heard asking for suggestions for punishment that should be given to those who filed nomination forms for panchayat elections.
Naikoo, in his response, said the people who have filed nomination forms and are contesting were betraying Kashmir. “We have been forgiving them for 30 years. We have warned them for years. Do one thing. Do not kill them, but instead pour acid in their eyes and make them blind. Cut their limbs and make them disabled forever,” he said.
Without giving any regard to this, people still turned out for voting and almost 74.1% of voting was registered in the second phase. This significant voter turnout goes on to showcase how unhappy the masses are, be it with NC, PDP or Congress. An average voter disregarding their call is a clear sign that these parties do not enjoy a popular support anymore and want development in the state sans clashes.
The boycott of Panchayat elections just goes on to legitimize the fact that the alliance PDP, NC and Congress was forming, was just an opportunistic alliance as they wanted to come in the power for shallow personal gains and allow the separatist elements to continue with their anti-India agenda. People of Jammu & Kashmir have shown them their place and we applaud them for turning out in large numbers and exercising their electoral right.