The maiden District Development Council (DDC) elections in Jammu and Kashmir concluded on Saturday with an overall voter turnout of approximately 51 per cent, and the counting of votes will be taken up on December 22. In the eighth and final phase of polling on Saturday, nearly 51 per cent turnout was recorded across 28 constituencies spread over 18 districts of the union territory, State Election Commissioner (SEC) K K Sharma said here.
The DDC elections, the first democratic exercise in Jammu and Kashmir after the Centre abrogated the special status of the erstwhile state and divided it into two union territories, commenced on November 28 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Addressing a press conference, Sharma said the polling was peaceful and largely incident-free, barring a few minor incidents.
“We had a successful last phase of the polls which recorded a turnout of 50.98 per cent for the entire J-K," Sharma told reporters. He said while 72.71 per cent polling was recorded in the Jammu Division in the final phase, 29.91 per cent turnout was registered in the Kashmir Valley.
While the first phase recorded 51.76 per cent polling, the subsequent phases on December 1, 4, 7, 10, 13 and 16 witnessed 48.62, 50.53, 50.08, 51.20, 51.51 and 57.22 per cent polling, respectively. The counting of votes for the DDC polls, which were held along with by-elections to panchayats, will be held on December 22.
He said over 3.21 lakh electors came out to vote in the final phase for which polling was held from 7 am till 2 pm, even as Kashmir valley reeled under sub-zero minimum temperatures. At some places the voting continued after 2 pm as several voters were waiting for their turn to cast the ballot, he added.
Sharma said that in the final phase in the Kashmir Valley, Kupwara district in the north recorded the highest turnout of 63.8 per cent, followed by 56.5 per cent in Bandipora, 44.6 per cent in Baramulla, 35.12 per cent in Budgam, 11.2 per cent in Kulgam, 8.6 per cent in Anantnag, 8.58 per cent in Shopian and 8.50 per cent in Pulwama. In the Jammu region, Poonch recorded the highest turnout of 83.58 per cent, followed by Reasi (81.92), Rajouri (77.31), Kathua (73.93), Samba (73.65), Kishtwar (73.45), Ramban (73.42), Doda (70.33), Jammu (69.39), Udhmapur (60.49).
Sharma said polling was held in a peaceful atmosphere and remained largely incident-free. “There has not been any significant incident. However, at a few polling stations, attempts of intimidation and ballot papers being torn were reported. Re-polling was ordered after contesting candidates from several political parties, other candidates and voters complained about unlawful activities during polling at some polling stations of Mendhar and Shopian DDC constituencies, he said. The SEC said a candidate came under a minor incident of stone pelting in Poonch. The PSO of the candidate acted properly and opened fire in air to stop the crowd. This led the people to disperse and there was some injury. This was an unfortunate incident, he added.
He said people have participated with very keen enthusiasm in the polls. The people of J-K want to participate in the development of the UT, he said. I want to recognise the role of political parties and independents for participating in these polls. Also, I thank the government machinery including the police and CAPFs for their efforts, Sharma said. On a question about the possibility of the assembly polls in the UT after the successful culmination of the DDC polls, Sharma said, “Assembly election is the mandate of the ECI (Election Commission of India). It is not right for me to comment. But, they (assembly polls) will happen sometime and the ECI will take steps for it." Earlier this morning, the voting began on a dull note at various polling stations due to early morning chill. However, it picked up the pace as the winter sun shone and long queues of voters were visible outside almost all polling stations across the Union Territory.
Over 6.30 lakh electors, including 3,03,275 female voters, were eligible to vote in this phase, officials said, adding a total of 1,703 polling stations — 1,028 in the Kashmir Division and 675 in the Jammu Division — were set up. The DDC elections recorded a heavy voter turnout in Jammu at 64.2 per cent in the first phase, 65.54 in second, 68.88 in third, 69.31 in fourth, 66.67 in fifth, 68.56 in sixth and the highest 71.93 in the seventh phase.
However, 10 districts in the Kashmir Division recorded a voter turnout out of 40.65 per cent in the first phase of the DDC elections, followed by 33.34 in second, 31.61 in third, 31.95 in fourth, 33.57 in fifth, 31.55 in sixth and 39.52 per cent in the seventh phase, the officials said.