Srinagar: Moderate polling was witnessed in the early hours of the first phase of Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Election on Saturday as nearly 18.5 per cent of voters exercised their franchise till 11 AM. Voting is underway in in as many as 47 blocks in six districts of the Kashmir Valley, two in Ladakh and seven districts in the Jammu region. Also Read - 'Nation First': Groom And His Family Decked Up For Wedding, Stand In Queue To Vote in Delhi
The voting for first phase began at 8 AM on Saturday and will continue till 2 PM. A total of 427 candidates are in the fray for 536 Sarpanch Halqas and 5,951 candidates for 4,048 Panch wards for first phase of the Panchayat polls. Also Read - Panchayat Polls in Rajasthan to be Held in Three Phases From Jan 17 | All You Need to Know
“A total of 8.9 per cent of the electorate cast their votes at 283 polling locations across the valley till 10 AM,” an official said. Adding further, he informed that 12,104 votes were polled in the first two hours of the poll conducted in 16 blocks in six districts of the valley. In 10 blocks of Ladakh region having 130 polling locations, the officials said 1,001 votes were polled in the first two hours. Also Read - Great News as Senior Citizens Above 80 Yrs Can Vote Via Postal Ballot, Announces Govt
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.
In Ramban district, 89 candidates are in the fray for 27 Sarpanch Halqas and 337 for 195 Panch wards. In Udhampur district, 162 candidates are contesting for 42 Sarpanch Halqas and 779 for 332 Panch wards.
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. 162 candidates for 53 Sarpanch Halqas and 736 for 419 Panch wards in Poonch district are contesting the polls.
While the polls are being conducted on the non-party basis, the NC, 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. While separatists have called for a boycott of the polls, terrorists have threatened to target anyone taking part in these elections.