DDC polls, Panchayat by-elections| First phase today, 1475 in fray

The first phase of the maiden District Development Council (DDC) polls, and the Panchayat by-elections, will be held on Saturday in J&K. 

According to officials, 296 candidates are contesting the first phase of the DDC polls— 172 from Kashmir and 124 from Jammu.  A total of 1475 candidates are in the fray for the first phase that includes seats for Panchs and Sarpanchs also.

In all, 280 DDC members will be elected in the eight-phase elections which will end on December 19. The counting will be held on December 22.

This is the first major electoral exercise after the central government scrapped the special status of the erstwhile state of J&K and bifurcated it into two union territories— J&K and Ladakh.

In the first phase of the DDC polls, officials said that 43 constituencies will go to polls — 25 in Kashmir and 18 in Jammu. In all, 2644 polling stations have been set up for 7,03,620 electors in this phase.

Officials said the voting for this phase will be from 7 am to 2 pm.

“On Friday, the polling stations in J&K were sanitized in view of COVID19,” they said, adding that the availability of all protective and sanitisation equipment like sanitizers, non-contact thermometers, facemasks , face-shields and PPE kits have been provided at the polling stations for the staff and the voters.

They said foolproof mechanism has been devised for the postal ballots from absentee voters, especially the COVID19 patients in homes and institutional quarantine and isolation.

The DDC polls are being held on party basis and 280 elected members will elect the chairman for district developmental boards.

Among the 280 DDC seats in the union territory – 140 are each in Jammu and Kashmir divisions i.e. 14 constituencies have been earmarked in each of the 20 districts of the union territory.

For the by-elections to Panchayats, 899 candidates are in the fray for the Panch seats and 280 for the Sarpanch seats.

The campaigning for the first phase came to an end on Thursday. Officials said elaborate arrangements have been put in place for the smooth conduct of the polls and special measures taken in view of the COVID19 pandemic.

The eight-phase elections are seen as a triangular contest among the Peoples’ Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), the BJP and the Apni Party. The PAGD is seeking the restoration of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.

Officials said the State Election Commissioner has directed for setting up of special polling stations for Kashmiri migrants at Jammu and Udhampur so that they can effectively exercise their right of franchise.