Pulwama: Jammu and Kashmir witnessed a voter turnout of 50.08% in the fourth phase of the District Development Council (DDC) polls held in the region on Monday. While Jammu recorded 69.31% voting, the Kashmir valley witnessed 31.95% voting today.
The winter capital of Jammu witnessed 71.80% polling. The highest polling percentage was recorded at 75.03% in Doda area of the Chenab valley. The lowest was reported in south Kashmir’s Shopian district – at 1.96%.
In Kashmir Valley, the highest polling was reported from Ganderbal, which recorded 56.28% polling in the fourth phase. The areas of Bandipora, Baramulla and Kupwara reported 45.22%, 47.43% and 44.35% voter turnouts respectively while areas in south Kashmir, like Kulgam and Anantnag, reported 8.73% and 27.04% polling respectively.
The DDC polls, the first major electoral exercise in the region since the abrogation of Article 370 and the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories, was held amid heavy security arrangements across the region, including in relatively more volatile areas of the valley, like Pulwama. Polling, which began at sub-zero temperatures, took place at 7 am till 2 pm, concluded without any major incidents of violence.
With 111 candidates including 34 women in the fray, Jammu division went to the fourth phase of the DDC polls today. 17 districts witnessed polling across 10 districts of Jammu.
In Jammu, the coveted seats of Nagrota and Dansal went to polls today. In Bamyal village of Nagrota, there is stiff competition between the National Conference (NC) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), that has seen power constantly changing hands between NC's provincial president Devender Singh Rana and BJP MP from Jammu-Poonch Lok Sabha seat, Jugal Kishore Sharma.
Both the leaders have campaigned extensively for their candidates.
In all the four phases, as reported earlier, people are electing representatives who can fulfill their basic demands of roads, water and electricity. In Nagrota, 45-year-old Ravi Kumar said that his vote was for candidate and not the party.
"It doesn't matter who comes to power as long as they ensure development. So our vote is strictly for development," he said.
In Rajouri district of Jammu division, Budhal Old-B, and Manjakote constituencies also saw two leaders in the fray with Former Minister Shabir Khan from Congress pitted against Shafayat Khan of National Conference (NC).
In Marmat constituency of Doda district, BJP's former Minister Shakti Raj Parihar is facing stiff competition from Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration’s (PAGDs) joint candidate Mushtaq Ahmed.
In Pulwama, which has emerged as a militancy ‘hotbed’ in the past few years, the majority of voters have been staying away from polling booths in the ongoing elections. The south Kashmir district has consistently shown the lowest voting in the DDC polls, ever since the first phase was held on November 28. Many polling booths appeared deserted even today, like the one in Muchpoora village, where no votes were cast till afternoon. Pulwama recorded a polling percentage of 6.73% in the fourth phase.
Sixty-year-old Abdul Rashid, a life-long supporter of the National Conference (NC) party, is voting for the first time for People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader Waheed ur Rahman Para. “This is beyond local politics now, I came out to vote today to show my solidarity with him,” Abdul Rashid said.
Pertinently, a day after Para filed his nomination to contest the DDC polls from his home constituency, he was summoned by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to its Delhi headquarters. After two days of interrogation, Para was arrested on November 25 in a case which the law enforcement agency said was related to militancy.
Para, the NIA said, was involved in a militancy case in which disgraced J&K police officer DySP Davinder Singh was arrested along with Hizbul Mujahideen commander Naveed Babu, two years ago. The charge was, however, denied by his party, which said that it was an attempt by the BJP to “criminalise dissent”.
Para, a close-aide of PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, is known to have a strong sway in Pulwama, which has witnessed dismal polling in the ongoing DDC polls.
On Monday, many voters arrived at the polling booths to express their support to the detained PDP politician. “He was a grass-roots politician and even as the larger issue of Kashmir remains at the core of politics in Kashmir, what happened to Waheed has also hurt us,” a voter from Para’s village, Nayrah, said.
The mainstream political parties in the region have formed a group called the People’s Alliance of Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) to thwart the BJP and its allies in the region. The alliance, which appears loosely knit, has vowed to work for the restoration of the pre-August 5 status of J&K.