Amid high security and separatist-called boycott, brisk voting was witnessed in six districts of Jammu, but very feeble turnout outside the polling booths in seven districts of the Kashmir Valley for the municipal polls that were underway on Wednesday, October 10.
Enthusiastic voters have been queuing up outside the polling stations in Jammu division in the last four hours after the process began at 6am. It has been exactly the opposite in the valley with turnout remaining very low.
By 8am, in the Jammu division -- Reasi district recorded 16.6 %, Kishtwar 15.3, Doda 12.6, Ramban 12.4, Udhampur 10.3 and Kathua 17.2 % voter turnout.
In the valley, the percentage remained as low as it was in the first phase on October 8.
In Srinagar, voter turnout in first two hours was 0.2, Kupwara 2.1, Baramulla 1.1, Bandipora. 4.3 and Anantnag 0.4%.
In Frisal municipal ward of Kulgam district, a lone candidate has got elected uncontested. In Badgam also, a single candidate in the fray in Beerwah municipal ward got elected uncontested.
A Bharatiya Janata Party candidate, Azad Singh died of cardiac arrest in Ramban district after casting his vote earlier in the day.
A total of 1,029 candidates are in the fray in 263 wards in Kathua, Udhampur, Kishtwar, Reasi, Doda, Ramban districts of Jammu region; and Anantnag, Kupwara, Srinagar, Baramulla, Bandipora, Badgam and Kulgam districts of the valley.
Mainstream political parties -- the National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), Democratic Party Nationalist (DPN) and Peoples Democratic Front (PDF) -- have boycotted these elections.
Separatists have called for a protest shutdown in areas where voting is scheduled in the valley. Militants have issued threats to contesting candidates and asked voters to keep away from the poll process that would end 7pm.
Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah raised questions over the rescheduling of poll timing in Jammu and Kashmir' second phase of the civic body polls from 7 am to 6 am. "Why are polling booths opening at 6am? If I believed conspiracy theories I would believe it's because journalists would not be around to verify the genuineness of voters at that very early hour," he tweeted.
Total electorate for Wednesday's poll is 3,46,980 of whom 1,28,104 are in Jammu division and 2,18,876 in the valley.
The officials said the total electorate in these wards is 346,980 - 128,104 in Jammu Division belonging to 18 Municipal bodies and 218,876 in Kashmir Division of five Municipal bodies. They said massive security arrangements have been put in place to ensure smooth conduct of the polls.
"Photo Voter Slips were distributed among the voters to inform them of their polling station. Senior government officers have been appointed as General Observers to oversee that the polls are smooth, fair and in order.
"Expenditure Observers are also keeping a watch on the expenditure by the candidates. In addition, Micro Observers have been deployed in polling stations, particularly those considered sensitive or hypersensitive," the poll official said.
The third phase of the municipal polls would be held on October 13 while the last phase on October 16. Counting of votes would take place on October 20.
The elections, covering 79 municipal bodies with an electorate of about 17 lakh, are being held in four phases. A total of 3,372 nominations have been filed for 1,145 wards. The next phases will take place on October 13 and 16.
The National Conference (NC), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the CPI(M) have boycotted the polls to protest the the legal challenge to Article 35A of the Constitution in the Supreme Court.
The government has declared holiday on the day of poll in the municipal areas concerned to enable voters cast their vote.
(with inputs from agencies)