JAMMU/SRINAGAR — An overwhelming majority of 79.8 percent of voters exercised their franchise in the second phase of staggered municipal elections in Jammu division Oct. 10 while a mere 3.4 percent voted in the troubled Kashmir Valley.
The overall voter percentage in Jammu and Kashmir was 31.3 percent, officials said.
At nearly 80 percent, Ramban district in Jammu division witnessed the maximum polling while only 1.1 percent voters took part in the exercise in militancy-hit Anantnag district in the Kashmir Valley.
The tremendous voter turnout in the Jammu region and poor turnout in the Valley was a repeat of the trend seen in the first round of the four-phase battle.
A massive deployment of security forces ensured that voting remained peaceful despite militant threats to disrupt the polls, which are being boycotted by the Valley’s two main parties, the National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party.
People were visibly reluctant to participate in the democratic process in the Valley. Two lone candidates were declared elected unopposed in the Kulgam and Badgam districts.
The second phase thus saw municipal polls only in 11 districts – six in the Jammu division and five in the Valley, where a separatist campaign raging since 1989 has left thousands dead.
Jammu and Kashmir is holding municipal polls after 13 years.
A Bharatiya Janata Party candidate, Azad Singh, died of a cardiac arrest in Ramban immediately after casting his vote, officials said.
A total of 1,029 candidates were in the fray in 263 wards in the Kathua, Udhampur, Kishtwar, Reasi, Doda and Ramban districts of Jammu region and in the Anantnag, Kupwara, Srinagar, Baramulla, Bandipora, Badgam and Kulgam districts of the Valley.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist also boycotted the elections. The main contestants are the Congress, the BJP and independents.
Separatists called for a protest shutdown in areas where voting took place in the Valley Oct. 10. Militants had threatened candidates and asked voters to keep away from the balloting, which was scheduled to end at 7 p.m.
Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah raised questions over the rescheduling of election timings.
"Why are polling booths opening at 6 a.m.? 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.
The third and the fourth phases of the municipal polls will be held on Oct. 13 and 16. The vote count will take place on Oct. 20.