2018 Municipal Polls In Brief

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The 4-phase elections for the municipal bodies across Jammu and Kashmir concluded peacefully. Authorities had made unprecedented security arrangements that also involved the safety of the contestants, most of whom were restricted to secured hotels and official accommodations. Though two National Conference (NC) activists were killed in Srinagar, none of them was in the race.

For the first time, an unprecedented secrecy was ensured that even led to a situation in which the voters did not know who was going to represent them.

Shaleen Kabra, Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), said the exercise was elaborate. As many as 1145 wards of 79 municipal bodies witnessed polls for which 3372 nominations were filled. The elections would represent about 17 lakh electors across urban and semi-urban spaces, more than a million in Kashmir.

Unlike Ladakh and Jammu, where the process was smooth and normal, Kashmir exhibited interestingly different trends. Key to this situation was the boycott appeal by the separatists and decision against participation by NC, PDP and some other groups. This left Congress and BJP, two pan-India parties, in the field. BJP said it nominated candidates at 260 wards of the 598 wards making Kashmir’s 40 municipalities. Besides, it claimed to support 50 independents as well

Of Kashmir’s 598 wards in 40 municipalities, polling was required in 186 wards only. As many as 181 wards were vacant because not a single nomination came. Single candidates who filed their nominations for 231 wards were declared winners unopposed. Of the 40 bodies, the polling was required only for 13 municipalities as in 27 bodies the process did not reach the level of polling. These 27 bodies envisaged 412 wards and held 68.89 per cent of 1032498 votes, the total electorate for the exercise. The poll percentage in the rest of the 13 municipal bodies was recorded at 8.3 per cent in the first phase, 3.4 per cent in the second, 3.5 per cent in the third and 4.2 per cent in the fourth and last phase.

The number of wards without a contest (69%) was twice the number of wards where voting did take place (31%). Overall turnout in Kashmir was 4.2 per cent − the lowest in history. Three of the 10 districts did not require polling and two municipal bodies lacked even a single candidate.

Here are the district wise snippets about how the municipal elections took place across Kashmir.

Kupwara

This border district has three municipal bodies: the main Kupwara, Handwara and Langate. Unlike Langate that remained low-key because of the non-involvement of local lawmaker Engineer Rashid in the electoral process, Kupwara and Handawra remained active. Credit goes to Sajad Lone’s mobilization and also the family of Fayaz Mir, a PDP MP, whose brother resigned from the party and fought from the home turf.

All the 13 wards of Kupwara were well contested and it recorded 36.55 per cent participation. Neighbouring Handwara had its seven wards getting representatives without a contest because there was only one candidate to each ward. Polling was held in six wards only and it recorded 27.78 per cent participation.

In Langate, there was no nomination for two of the 13 wards. For nine wards, there was a nominee in each ward and they were declared winners without contest. This left two wards for a formal contest in which four candidates were in the fray.

Baramulla

This border district has six municipal bodies. In six of the 21 wards that form the main town’s municipality, six wards lacked contest, because the lone nominees were declared elected unopposed. In 15 wards, voting took place and it varied from ward to ward. Overall participation was 5.1 per cent.

For Kunzar municipality, no polling was required. All its seven wards had a candidate each and they were declared winners unopposed.

Of the 13-wards in Pattan municipality, two were left vacant as no nomination came. In the remaining 11 wards, one candidate each reported to the presiding officer and were declared winners unopposed.

In 13-ward Watergam, no nomination came in four wards so they were vacant. For eight wards, one nomination was received for each ward and was declared winners. This left two candidates fight for one ward.

For municipal council in Uri, all the 13 wards were well contested among 32 candidates and 75 per cent participation was reported.

The municipality in Sopore had 21 wards. For 13 wards, the presiding officer received no nomination at all. The remaining eight wards were won uncontested as there was one nomination each without an opposition.

Bandipore

This district has only three municipalities. The main Bandipore municipality with 17 wards had no nomination to one ward. All other wards had a contest. Only 3.4 per cent voters turned up.

Polling staff at a polling booth in Srinagar. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

The small Sumbal municipality with 13 wards had two wards going to two candidates without a contest. 33 candidates fought better on 11 wards indicating a better mobilisation.

In the neighbouring Hajin, 10 of the 13 wards were won by single nominees for want of contest – all by Congress. Imtiaz Parray, son of Kukka Parray, won from two wards unopposed. No nominations came from three wards and were vacant.

Ganderbal

The tiny Ganderbal district has just one municipality that had 17 wards. The fate of five wards had already been decided as the candidates won without an opponent or were left vacant. It had 38 candidates in the fray on 12 wards.

Budgam

The central Kashmir Budgam district has six municipalities. The Magam municipality had 13 wards of which six were vacant because no nomination came. In the remaining seven wards, results had already been declared as the lone candidate won from each seat.

In the 13-ward Chrare-e-Sharief, no nomination came from the two wards, and in the remaining 11 wards, the result was out at the nomination stage as only one candidate had filed papers from each berth, thus making them winners.

For the 13-ward Beerwah municipality, no nomination came from the 12 wards so they were all vacant. For one ward, however, one nomination had come and was won uncontested.

No polling was required in 13-ward Chadoora Municipality because eight wards were declared over by single nomination each, and in five other wards, no nomination came.

All seven wards of Khansahab Municipality were won uncontested as the Presiding Officer allegedly accepted seven nominations after the expiry of the last date for nominations.

In the 13-ward main Budgam municipality, the officials did not get any nominations from the three wards. In nine wards, there was one nominee from each and they all were declared elected unopposed. This left just one ward for the polling and it polled 17 per cent.

Pulwama

The south Kashmir Pulwama has five municipal bodies. In the highway municipality of Pampore, five of 17 wards had its representatives declared unopposed because there was just one candidate. In the remaining 12, not a single nomination came.

In the neighbouring 13-ward Khrew, all the seats were vacant because no nomination came to the presiding officer.

In the main 13-ward Pulwama municipality, two candidates won unopposed as the candidates were not challenged. For the 11 other wards, no nomination came.

In the 13-ward Tral Municipality, as many as four wards, including three by BJP, were won unopposed. There was no nomination for the remaining nine wards.

The highway town of Awantipora witnessed two wards being wrested by two nominees without a contest. There was no nomination from 11 wards which remained vacant.

Shopian

One of the smallest districts with a single municipality, officials said they did not receive even a single nomination in five of the 17 wards. In the remaining 12 wards, one candidate each was elected unopposed. Most of them were BJP nominees.

Kulgam

Also a small district, Kulgam has five municipal bodies. In the 6-ward Yaripora municipality, no nomination came from two wards. In the remaining four wards, a nominee each was declared a winner.

A few kilometres away from Yaripora is Frisal that had a 13-ward municipality. Officials did not receive a single nomination for any of the wards.

Kulgam town had a 13-ward municipality. On nine wards, there was no nomination so they were vacant. In the remaining four, there was one candidate each, so they were automatically declared winners. Two of them were from BJP, a couple.

The 8-ward Devsar municipality received one nomination from each ward. In absence of a challenge, they all were declared winners unopposed.

Anantnag

This south Kashmir town is the second biggest after the capital city. It has nine municipal bodies.

Women waiting in queue to cast their vote.

The 17-ward Dooru four wards received no nomination and were vacant. In the remaining 13 wards, Congress nominees won unopposed. BJP was also contesting but their candidates withdrew nomination on the eve of the polls. The withdrawal came within hours after the paddy crop of one of the BJP nominees was set afire by unidentified people.

In the 13-ward Mattan municipality, seven wards witnessed polling. Seven candidates were declared winners uncontested.

The 17 ward Bijbehara municipality had 12 wards vacant because no nomination came. In the remaining five wards, five nominees were declared winners unopposed.

Qazigund, a highway town had 7-ward municipality. On three wards, no form of any nomination came. For the remaining four, there was one candidate each, thus making them unopposed winners.

In the main 25-ward Anantnag Municipality, nine wards had only one nomination each and they all were declared winners unopposed. The remaining 16 wards witnessed a contest between 36 candidates. Of the 32904 voters, only 374 (1.13 per cent) voted.

Achabal Municipal Committee had eight wards, of which victory was declared in favour of five nominees without a contest. The three wards did not get a nomination at all.

The 13-ward Seer Hamdan municipality could not get even a single nomination in 11 wards and they were all vacant. In the two wards, however, one candidate each was declared a winner.

Another 13-wards municipality in Kokernag declared eight candidates winners uncontested. While one remained vacant for no nomination, the municipality witnessed polling for four wards where eight candidates were in the fray.

Ashmuqam also had a 13-ward municipality. Eight of the wards got winners without a contest as one nomination came to one ward. All others had no nomination at all and are vacant.

Srinagar

The capital city, the only municipal corporation in Kashmir was the focus of the election authorities and the political parties. Given the length and the breadth of the city, the authorities completed the exercise in all four phases. Of the 77 wards, three went in phase-1, 20 in the second phase and 25 each in the last two phases.

All the wards had a contest. BJP had candidates in Srinagar’s 67 wards and supported three independents. There were a few wards in which there was no vote or were less than 10. But certain wards like Bemina, Mukhdoom Sahib and Zadibal where voters participated in good numbers.

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