The first phase of panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) began on Saturday amid heightened security in the face of militant threats. The elections will be held in nine phases across the state.
Polling officials said 427 candidates are in the fray for 536 Sarpanch Halqas and 5,951 candidates for 4,048 Panch wards for the first phase of the panchayat polls.
They said polling is being held in six districts on Kashmir Valley, two in Ladakh and seven districts in the Jammu region.
The officials said 170 candidates are in the fray for 64 Sarpanch Halqas and 762 for 498 Panch wards in Kupwara district, while 21 candidates for 20 Sarpanch Halqas and 81 for 146 Panch wards in Bandipora district.
In Baramulla district, 148 candidates are in the fray for 63 Sarpanch Halqas and 630 for 497 Panch wards.
Eleven candidates for 15 Sarpanch Halqas and 21 for 105 Panch wards in Ganderbal district, six candidates for five Sarpanch Halqas and nine for 45 Panch wards in Srinagar and 35 candidates for 26 Sarpanch Halqas and 124 for 222 Panch wards in Budgam district are contesting the polls in the first phase.
In Kargil, 51 candidates for 23 Sarpanch Halqas and 225 for 179 Panch wards, while in Leh, 64 candidates for 32 Sarpanch Halqas and 207 for 226 Panch wards are in the fray, the officials said.
In Kishtwar district, 107 candidates for 50 Sarpanch Halqas and 494 for 358 Panch wards are in the fray, the officials said, adding that 190 candidates for 52 Sarpanch Halqas and 626 for 364 Panch wards are in the fray in Doda district.
The officials said 89 candidates for 27 Sarpanch Halqas and 337 for 195 Panch wards in Ramban district and 162 candidates for 42 Sarpanch Halqas and 779 for 332 Panch wards in Udhampur district are contesting the polls.
In Kathua district, 114 candidates are in the fray for 29 Sarpanch Halqas and 450 for 209 Panch wards, while 121 candidates for 35 Sarpanch Halqas and 469 for 253 Panch wards in Rajouri district.
The officials said 162 candidates for 53 Sarpanch Halqas and 736 for 419 Panch wards in Poonch district are contesting the polls.
All arrangements have been put in place for the smooth conduct of the polls and polling staff has been deputed to the respective polling stations, they said.
While the polls are being conducted on the non-party basis, the National Conference (NC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the CPI(M) have announced to stay away from the electoral exercise due to the legal challenge to Article 35-A of the Constitution in the Supreme Court.
The NC and the PDP have asked the Centre to make its stand clear in the apex court on the constitutional provision and urged it to defend its continuation in the court.
They had also boycotted the municipal polls which were conducted last month.
While separatists have called for a boycott of the polls, terrorists have threatened to target anyone taking part in these elections.
News credit : Indiatoday