by Masood Hussain
SRINAGAR: In the second phase slated for Wednesday, the municipal elections are getting into the capital city and some of the sensitive areas in the south Kashmir. But what makes them distinct is that there would not be voting at all – in seven of the 12 municipalities. Three will witness voting requirement in fewer wards, unlike Srinagar and Sumbal that have almost all the wards being contested.
Authorities on Tuesday announced a new timing for polling starting at 6 am – if possible, which is an hour earlier than the last phase. By Kashmir standards it is too early, though. Met officials say Kashir’s son will rise at 6:32 am on October 10.
At seven places, the elections are not taking place because either the wards were left vacant in absence of a nomination or there was just a candidate seeking an election and was declared the winner. Srinagar will be keenly contesting like Sumbal and Anantnag, as far as the number of candidates is concerned.
But Pir Panchal region would witness good participation because it is linked to their demography and identity. Most of the Pir Panchal range was swept by the BJP.
Separatists who have been sponsoring strikes on polling days have issued a strike calendar for areas going to polls without offering any indication if the areas which have no contest will have to observe it or not.
No Voting Area
The Kunzar municipality in Baramulla has seven wards. But it will not have any voting. All its seven wards have one candidate each and there is no contest, and also voting not required.
Another municipality that is close to Kunzar is Magam, which is part of Budgam district. It also has 13 wards of which six are vacant because no nomination came. In the balance seven wards, there is one candidate each and they have already been declared winners without a contest.
The revered Chrare-e-Sharief town in Budgam has 13 wards for its municipality. There was no nomination for two wards and in the remaining 11 wards there, is one candidate each. They have already won and some of them have shifted out for celebrations!
Beerwah also falls in Budgam. This assembly segment is being represented by Omar Abdullah in the state assembly. Its municipality has 13 wards. For 12 wards, no nomination has come and shall remain vacant. For one ward, however, one nomination has come who has already won uncontested. So this town will also not require any voting.
The Yaripora town is part of Kulga district. It has six wards. For two wards no nomination papers were filed by anybody. For the remaining four wards, four nominations were received by the officials. Those who came with applications are presumed to have won the battle without actually fighting it.
A few kilometres away from this town is another major town called Frisal. It is a bigger one, in comparison to Yaripora. The municipality of this town has 13 wards. Officials said they have not received even a single nomination for any of the ward. So, no election is required.
The major town that the new highway is bypassing now is Bijbehara. It is the hometown of Muftis’, the founders of PDP. The town has 17 wards in its Municipality. There are as many as 12 wards which did not have any nomination at all. In the remaining five wards, five individuals have actually submitted their nomination forms but in absence of an opposition, they are presumed winners. The electoral process will bypass it the same way the highway is doing. Abdul Rehman Veeri is currently representing the assembly segment.
But there are a few municipalities where some kind of election has become necessary. There are quite a few wards in these areas where voting will have to be conducted.
The Langate municipality, a barely a kilometre away from Handwara, for instance, will witness some voting. This is part of Engineer Rashid’s constituency that he is retaining for the two terms. It has 13 wards municipality of which no nomination came to two wards. There were nine nominees for nine wards and they all were declared winners. This has left two wards on which four candidates are contesting. So it will witness voting on Wednesday.
The other municipality in the belt is that of Watergam. Part of Baramulla’s Rafiabad belt, it falls under the territorial jurisdiction of police district of Sopore. This municipality has 13 wards. There was no nomination at all in four wards and in eight wards the officials received one nomination for each ward. All these eight persons were declared elected already in absence of an opposition. This left one ward which will witness voting as two candidates are fighting it out for one Mohalla.
The main south Kashmir township of Anantnag will also have some contest. It has 25 wards and in nine wards, there was one nomination each and they have already been declared winners. There are 16 wards that will witness a contest between 47 candidates.
Authorities have already arrested the local cleric Qazi Yasir who had announced a parallel polling for Azaadi. He has already been arrested in a raid and some “ballot boxes” were also reportedly seized from his residence. Media reported indicated.
This leaves two areas where voting has to be compulsorily done: Sumbal in Bandipore districts and 20 wards of Srinagar city.
The small Sumbal municipality has 13 wards of which two have gone to two candidates uncontested. This has left 11 wards on which 33 candidates are in the fray. There is some mobilisation and indications suggest, there were polling also.
The main focus will remain on Srinagar city where a vast belt is scheduled to go for polls on Wednesday. The 20 wards that will see polling include according to unofficial reports, Solina, Alochibagh, SD Colony Batamaloo, Ziarat-e-Batamaloo, Shaheed Gunj, Karan Nagar, Chattabal, Qamarwari, Bemina East, Bemina West, Nund Reshi Colony, Parimpora, Zainakote, Lawaypora, Mujigund, Tankipora, Haba Kadal, Barbarshah, Fateh Kadal, and Munawar Abad. Officially only 19 wards will go to polls with 71 candidates in the fray.
Officials said all the areas are being keenly contested. There are as many as 72 candidates in the fray.
Srinagar city had already witnessed polling in three of its wards in the first phase and will have other wards for the remaining two phases. The security situation has been tightened and the law enforcement authorities will witness a hectic and tense day on Wednesday.
The second phase reached Srinagar at a time when the governor Satya Pal Malik has already hinted – in an interview with the NDTV, that a foreign educated man will be the Mayor. Almost all the political parties have strongly reacted to the statement saying it has devoured the entire credibility from the entire exercise as “BJP RSS has already decided as to who would be the Mayor”.
From Pir Panchal
Congress, BJP and other parties, however, continued their campaigning in Pir Panchal range which will witness good turnout. Unlike Kashmir, parties are campaigning. NC and PDP which are boycotting in Kashmir have fielded their candidates as independents.
“An interesting scenario is developing (in Thatri), wherein most of the opposition political parties in Inderwal are supporting independent candidates,” Congressman Ghulam Mohammad Saroori was quoted saying. “Independent candidates have refused the mandate of BJP, PDP and NC National Conference because they realize that the party tag might end up further reducing their vote share. This has left Congress as the lone party candidate in the field.”
Since the 2014 assembly election was swept by the BJP in the belt, there are chances of the majority assertion, reports reaching from the belt said.
An official spokesman quoted the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Shaleen Kabra saying that voting will take place at 544 polling stations across the state on Wednesday, October 10, 2018, and the timing would be between 6 am and 4 pm.
It is almost wee hours because the Fajr prayers conclude slightly before the 6 am. This apparently is aimed at getting willing voters to the polling stations well before they would be noticed. This apparently adds the new layer to the unprecedented secrecy that the governor’s administration has given to this exercise.
Kabra said 270 polling stations have been designated for voting in Kashmir division and 274 in Jammu division.
The CEO said 1029 candidates are in the fray for 263 Municipal Wards including 49 in Kashmir and 214 in Jammu. He said 881 candidates are in the fray in Jammu division and 148 in Kashmir.
“In the areas going to polls tomorrow, the total electorate is 346980, with 128104 in Jammu division belonging to 18 Municipal bodies and 218876 in Kashmir division of 5 Municipal bodies,” he said and added that Additional poll staff is also being deployed at the polling stations with a larger number of electors.
The CEO said that Basic Minimum Facilities (BMF) have been ensured in all the polling stations across the state for voting. Photo Voter Slips have already been distributed among the voters to inform them of their polling station.
Kabra said senior government officers have been appointed as General Observers to oversee the smooth, fair and orderly conduct of polls. “Expenditure Observers are also keeping a watch on the expenditure by the candidates,” he said and added that for the poll day Micro Observers have been deployed in polling stations, particularly those considered sensitive/ hypersensitive.
“Besides, the Zonal and Sector Magistrates have been deployed to ensure smooth conduct of polls as well as monitoring the entire process,” CEO said and added that the Deputy Commissioners are undertaking Videography of all critical events related to the poll process.
Kabra said Control Rooms have been established in all the Municipal Bodies across the State to respond promptly to any complaints of violation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) as also to disseminate information to the public. He said adequate security arrangements have been made for smooth conduct of polling across the State.
He said the government has also declared a holiday on the day of poll in the municipal areas going to polls so as to enable the voters to cast their vote. He said as per standing guidelines, the Central Government offices shall not be closed but the employees who are electors of the poll going wards and desire to exercise their franchise shall be offered reasonable facility- by way of coming late to office / allowed to leave office early / short absence.
The CEO urged voters to exercise their right to franchise in order to choose their local self-government to address their local needs.
Pertinently, Municipal Elections-2018 are being held in four phases, covering 79 municipal bodies with an electorate of about 17 lakh. A total of 3372 nominations have been filed for 1145 wards. Days of the poll are 8th, 10th, 13th and 16th October for these four phases.