Voting for the second phase of panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir is underway amid heavy security. As many as 40 blocks - 17 in Jammu region, 12 in Kashmir and 11 in Ladakh region - are going to polls in this phase. Polling started at 8 am and it will conclude at 2 pm on Tuesday. Counting of votes will be taken up immediately after the polling ends. As many as 1,038 candidates are in the fray for 468 sarpanch halqas and 4,165 candidates for 3610 panch wards in this phase.
The nine-phased elections, being conducted on the non-party basis, began Saturday. The National Conference, PDP and the CPI(M) have announced to stay away from the electoral exercise due to the legal challenge to Article 35A of the Constitution in the Supreme Court.
The first phase of the panchayat elections that took place amid heightened security in the face of militant threats on Saturday recorded an impressive voter turnout of 74.1 per cent. According to Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Shaleen Kabra, over 64 per cent of the electorate has voted in Kashmir while Jammu region recorded 79.5 per cent polling in the first phase of panchayat elections in 47 blocks across the state. In comparison to the recent urban local bodies' elections, the turnout in rural areas was significantly higher in the Kashmir valley.
Voting underway for second phase of Panchayat Polls in Jammu and Kashmir; visuals from a polling station in Udhampur's Tikri. pic.twitter.com/yYPYoSBSxX— ANI (@ANI) November 20, 2018
Though the overall polling process was conducted quite peacefully, minor clashes and stone-pelting incidents have been reported in Mendhar area of Poonch district. Separatists who asked people to boycott the polls had called for a strike on Saturday. However, no damage has been reported during the protest. Technical glitches had led to re-polling at a booth in Kishtwar's Atholi.
There will be seven more phases of panchayat polls in the state. The first phase of polls is being held after a delay of two years and the state is currently under the Governor's rule.
On October 31, BJP state secretary Anil Parihar and his brother Ajeet were shot dead by unknown assailants while they were returning from their shop in Kishtwar district. The two were fired upon from close range at a dark, narrow lane leading to their house.