Shopian/Pulwama: The union territory of Jammu and Kashmir witnessed 51.76% polling in the first phase of District Development Council (DDC) elections held here on Saturday, November 28. Reasi witnessed the highest number of votes polled at 74.62% while Pulwama district in South Kashmir reported the least percentage at 6.70%.
The DDC polls is the first major electoral exercise being held in the region after witnessing a political upheaval as the central government abrogated Article 370 last year and bifurcated the erstwhile state of J&K into two union territories.
The polling is being held in eight phases across 280 constituencies of the union territory in which over 1,400 candidates are in the fray. The polling began with the onset of dawn at about 7 AM amid biting cold, but gained momentum as the day progressed.
In the volatile areas of South Kashmir, where a low voter turnout was expected, Pulwama witnessed a dismal percentage of less than 7% in the first phase. In Shopian’s poll-bound areas which witnessed highest number of counter-insurgency operations, however, 42.58% of votes were cast.
Ali Mohammad Bhatti, a 65-year-old voter from Narapora, a village in Shopian with over 1,200 electorates, said his participation in the DDC polls were “important” for the upliftment of his village. “No one wants to work on the ground, we are expecting a change under the DDCs,” he said.
An elaborate security cover has been laid in and around polling booths to thwart any law and order situation. The polling, however, ended without any major incident of violence or protest. A senior security official told NewsClick that as many as 100 personnel of the police and paramilitary were posted in and around each polling station to secure the exercise. “We had ensured a four-tier security cover for each polling station,” the official said.
Also read: Explained: The Importance of DDC Elections in J&K
In Srinagar, the J&K police used as many as 30 drones for aerial surveillance in the polling areas.
Meanwhile, back in Shopian, in a far-flung village which is over 50 km from Srinagar, Mohmmad Ilyas Kumhar is fighting elections for the sixth time. A former militant with Al-Jehad outfit for five years in the 1990s, Ilyas is contesting as an independent. “I am only fighting to promote democracy and thwart those who call for the boycott,” Ilyas said.
A Sarpanch from Batpora, who fought in the parliamentary elections in year 2009, Ilyas said that there is a need to bring new faces to fore in politics.
The mainstream political parties in the region have formed the PAGD alliance against the central ruling party BJP and its allies in the region like Apni Party. Another voter from the Narpora village said there was a need to support the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD). “We are facing depression and the alliance may help. The way we saw US elections and what happened to President Trump due to his failure in COVID-19 response, we also may be able to witness a change soon,” he told NewsClick.
However, 65-year-old Abdul Kabir Shah of Mashwara village told NewsClick that for him all the parties are “the same.” I am voting in the hope that there will be a relief as our village lacks basic facilities like water and electricity in our village,” Shah said.