Srinagar: The voting for first phase of Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Elections began at 8 AM on Saturday. Polling is being held 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 - Jammu And Kashmir Panchayat Polls to be Held in Nine Phases From Nov 17 to Dec 11 Through Ballot Paper
Elaborate security arrangements have been put in place for the smooth conduct of the polls and election staff has been deputed to the respective polling stations. 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, the voting for which is scheduled to end at 2 PM. Also Read - Jammu And Kashmir Local Body Elections May be Deferred After PDP, NC's Boycott Call Over Article 35-A: Report
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. Also Read - Article 35-A: If Farooq Abdullah is Objecting to Panchayat Elections, Why Did he Contest Kargil Polls, Asks BJP
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.
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.