Stating that complaints regarding confining of candidates have been taken up with police, State Election Commissioner K.K Sharma on Monday said that additional security arrangements have been made for the second phase of District Development Council/ panchayat elections.
"No candidate is barred from campaigning," Sharma told reporters here. He said that whenever they get such complaints, the body takes up the matter with authorities. "Today I reviewed that with the Inspector General of Police and Divisional Commissioner Kashmir."
"Otherwise, wherever law and order is not suitable, candidates could come under risk. But human safety, life of candidates are important and at the same time there is a custom in democracy where the candidate goes to the constituency, campaigns there, then only the election can be called successful. For that, the police are providing escort, but they have to stick to a time-table," he said.
"If any candidate wants extension in the hours, let them come to us and we will enable the candidates," he added.
On a question about those candidates who have won the polls unopposed being confined to cluster accommodations, Sharma said the goal of the government was not to keep anyone away from their homes.
"If there is a security problem in their areas for some days, it will be taken care of immediately and they will be able to go to their areas soon," he said.
About the PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti's statement that she was not being allowed to venture out, the SEC said that Mehbooba being a former chief minister, there is a set protocol which has to be followed by police whenever she tries to go out. "As far as her Friday's visit, that was not for campaigning. She is free to do campaigning for her party candidates under proper protocol," he said.
Sharma said that in the second phase 25 seats will go to polls in Kashmir and 18 in Jammu province. "Of the total 280 DDC constituencies in J&K, 25 will go for polls in Kashmir and 18 in Jammu in the phase 2 of the polling."
State Election Commissioner said that 7.90 lakh voters are eligible for vote in the phase 2 and 2142 polling stations have been set up across J&K.
He said 321 candidates are in the fray for the second phase of elections, 196 in Kashmir and 125 in Jammu. "1305 polling stations have been set up in Kashmir and 837 in Jammu." Sharma said that in Kashmir all the polling stations are sensitive and adequate security arrangements have been made.
Regarding panchayat by-polls, KK Sharma said that the sarpanch elections will be conducted in 83 constituencies and total 223 candidates are contesting including 151 male and 72 female candidates in phase II. Similarly, in panch by-polls, going to be held in 331 constituencies, total 709 candidates are in fray including 552 males and 157 females for 331 vacant seats of panchs. He also informed that 58 sarpanchs (29 males, 29 females) and 804 panchs (548 males, 256 females) have been elected unopposed.
He said that panchs and sarpanchs who got elected will be provided proper security after making their security assessment.
State Election Commissioner further informed that more than 57 lakh voters in J&K are eligible to cast their votes, of which more than 7 lakh 95 thousand voters shall use their right to vote in phase II. He said that out of 795118 lakh voters more than 388273 are from Jammu division and 406845 are from Kashmir division.
Sharma asked the voters to follow Covid-19 protocol in spirit and wear face masks while being in queues. He said that 10 litres of sanitizers have been kept at all polling booths. He also said that West Pakistan Refugees (WPRs) participated in the election for the first time. "The exact number of WPRs who participated in the poll process for the first time will be provided to the media separately."
He complimented the political parties and people for voting in the first phase of polls in good numbers. "People shouldn't fear and come out in good numbers to vote.
The SEC said that special polling booths have also been created for Kashmiri Migrants at Jammu and Udhampur so that they can also participate in the election process.
Earlier, the SEC had a detailed review meeting with the Divisional Commissioner and IGP Kashmir in which he was briefed about the arrangements in place for the second phase of the DDC and Panchayat elections.
He was also briefed about the arrangements being put in place for maintaining the COVID 19 Protocols and SOPs by the Nodal officer of the Health Department.