Srinagar: The third phase of polling for civic polls in Kashmir began on Saturday morning amid little hope of change in the trend of low voter turnout in the Valley as most of the wards fall in the separatist hotbed of downtown city and south Kashmir.
Of the 40 wards going to polls, 20 fall in Srinagar city’s downtown area, where the voter turnout has been generally low since the eruption of militancy in the state in 1989.
The wards in downtown city going to polls are Khanqah-e-Mualla, Maharajgunj, Jamia Masjid, Makhdoom Sahib, Khwaja Bazaar, Aqilmir Khanyar, Rozabal, Daulatabad, Islamyarbal, Nawab Bazaar, Nawa Kadal, Safakadal, Rathpora, Edigah, Palpora and Tarabal.
Ten other wards in the civil lines area of the city, where polling will be held on Saturday, are Lal Chowk, Rajbagh, Ikhrajpora, Mehjoor Nagar, Natipora, Chanapora, Budshah Nagar, Baghat Barzulla, Hyderpora and Rawalpora.
The voter turnout, however, is expected to be high in 13 wards in the Uri area of north Kashmir’s Baramulla district, which has traditionally been a high polling area. A similar trend might be seen in seven wards in the Mattan area of Anantnag district, which has a significant Kashmiri migrant population.
Although 207 wards in the state were scheduled to go to polls in the third phase, polling will be held only in 96 wards — 56 in Samba district in Jammu division and 40 in the Valley.
While results for 49 wards in the Valley were declared uncontested at the completion of the nomination process on 3 October, there were no nominations filed for 62 wards — mostly falling in Pulwama and Anantnag district of south Kashmir.
As many as 365 candidates are in the fray — 242 for four municipal bodies in Samba district and 123 for Valley’s four municipal bodies. The polling will begin at 6 am and conclude at 4 pm, officials said. The election staff, along with polling material, has reached respective polling stations, they added.
A thick security blanket has been thrown around the polling stations, while security forces are carrying out area domination exercises over the past couple of days for ensuring incident-free election, the officials said.
The National Conference, the PDP and the CPI(M) have boycotted the polls due to the legal challenge to Article 35-A of the Constitution in the Supreme Court.
The voter turnout in the first two phases of the civic polls in the Valley has been low. While 8.3 per cent of the electorate turned up to vote in the 83 wards in the first phase on 8 October, the poll percentage fell to an abysmal 3.4 per cent in the second phase held on 10 October.