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    J&K gears up for Panchayat polls after 10 years

    Srinagar: Politicians have kicked off campaigning for the much-hyped Panchayat polls in Kashmir after a decade, at a public rally in Anantnag.

    Barring a few posters warning people against voting, separatists have largely remained nascent to the polls beginning next week.

    Having got a snub in the 2008 assembly when people came out in huge numbers to cast ballot, the separatist this time are wary - they have termed the polls inconsequential and likened it to bijli, pani and sadak issues.

    Over 50 lakh people are to cast their ballots in 30,000 panchayati constituencies. The elections will be held on a non-party basis, which means alliance partners - Congress and National Conference - can contest against each other. And the Congress is hoping to cash in on the resumption of Indo-Pak talks.

    "People should vote in large numbers so that their daily problems are taken care of. Our Prime Minister and (Congress) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi favour talks with Pakistan," said J&K Congress President Saifuddin Soz.

    Sources say while the government is keen to have grassroot democracy in place, it would also serve other purposes - like keeping separatists off from stirring trouble in the Valley as they did last year, and also to secure central developmental grants, which would otherwise lapse.