As the awaited Urban Local Body (UBL) elections in the state of Jammu and Kashmir ends its third phase today, the polling booth across the Valley surfaced as ‘no man’s land’.
Wholesome of 365 candidates fielded themselves for the third phase, covering 96 wards. Election Commission (EC) officials were quoted by The Indian Express saying, 411 candidates were originally supposed to contest for 207 wards in the third phase, however, candidates from 49 wards in the Kashmir were elected unopposed, while no nominations were filed in 62 wards of the militancy-riddled Valley.
The areas going to polls in the downtown and the civil lines in Srinagar were spread over Khanyar, Amira Kadal and Eidgah assembly segments. These areas have witnessed increasingly fading voter turnout in past three decades. Many poll bound areas in Srinagar city are labelled as volatile, accounting to the reports of numerous clashes.
Hence, the voter turnout in Srinagar in initial two phases ended with merely 6.2 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively. Today, till 2 pm Srinagar recorded 1.8 percent turnout. In Sopore eight municipal wards the BJP candidates have won unopposed while in other 13 wards there were no candidates.
Talking to The Kashmir Walla, Rajesh Kumar, from Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) said, “It is really a surprising experience for me to see empty polling booths with just our men around. I thought there would be minimum participation, but it is not. It seems people are very angry with the system.”
The people in the majority of the areas, which went to polls today, were not even aware of the name of the candidates. “I don’t know who is contesting from this ward. The situation is so fearful throughout the state that no one dares to ask about the names of the candidates,” said Mohammad Yousuf, a resident of Chanapora area of Srinagar city.
Taking the cautious account on the lowest voting turnout, the former Chief Minister of the state and National Conference (NC) leader, Omar Abdullah, took to Twitter to slam the Modi-led central government.
“From the highest turnouts since 1987 in 2014, to the lowest turnouts ever recorded in 2018, why is the Modi government able to get away with its disastrous handing of Kashmir almost unquestioned?” tweeted Abdullah.
In Chanapora area, in 7 polling booths, comprising more than 5600 number of voters, only 8 votes in total were reported there in the day.
The Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) and militant outfits have also called for a boycott of the polls in the state. Reflecting the call in the figures, the turnout in the first phase was 8 percent, while in the second phase, only 3.4 percent people turned up. However, the Jammu and Ladakh region of the state witnessed brisk polling. Authorities have made tight security arrangements for the smooth and peaceful conduct of the polls.
In Baramulla’s border town Uri, 75.33 percent polling was recorded. While south Kashmir’s Mattan area witnessed less than 3 percent in the third phase of UBL elections.
Till 12 pm, 2117 voter cast their votes out of 3552 in the border town of Uri. Among the voters, 1096 were male and 1021 females.
In Samba area of Jammu division, 73 percent voter turnout was reported.
Responding to the call in the valley, most of the business operations and shops were closed, traffic remained off the roads. However, schools, filling pumps, colleges, and government institutions remained closed.
Amidst the open barbecue of democratic practice, the political tension, and several calls from pro-freedom leaders and militant outfits made the roads across the Valley to wore a deserted attire.
Cover photograph: A paramilitary forces’ personnel guarding Amira Kadal bridge in Srinagar. Photograph by Sanna Irshad Mattoo/The Kashmir Walla