Ahead of the first phase of District Development Council polls and Panchayat by-elections in J&K, tight security arrangements have been put in place and induction of security forces for poll duty has already begun.
280 DDC members will be elected in the eight-phase elections, which will begin on November 28 and end on Dec 19. The counting will be held on December 22. The DDC elections are being held on party basis and the 280 elected members will elect chairman for district development boards.
Polls in the first phase will be held on 43 seats— 25 in Kashmir and 18 in Jammu division.
Along with the DDC polls, eight-phased by-polling will be held for 230 urban local bodies (ULB) and 12000 Panchayat seats.
The DDC poll is the biggest electoral contest being held after the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and its bifurcation into two UTs – J&K and Ladakh, last year.
“We have made elaborate security arrangements for incident-free polls and more security companies have already arrived in J&K for the poll process,” a top rung police official told Greater Kashmir. “Security is being reviewed as per requirements.”
The official said that induction of security forces for poll duty has already begun. “The polling booths are sanitized. Every polling booth will have three tier security.”
“Area domination to instil sense of security among the voters is upgraded,” he said, adding that people must come out to vote without any fear.
The top official informed that during last about 10 days, 71 public meetings, door-to-door meetings, road shows and other functions have been held in J&K for elections by the different parties to woo the voters .
The process of deployment of staff at polling booths and other requirements are almost complete, officials said.
Major regional parties: National Conference (NC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which boycotted the Panchayat polls in 2018, have plunged into the electoral battleground under the banner of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD).
The BJP and the Congress are also campaigning in various constituencies of Jammu and Kashmir. While the BJP has deployed union ministers and central leaders as its star campaigners, only local Congress leaders are campaigning.
While campaigning in various constituencies in districts of Jammu division has gathered momentum with road shows, door-to-door meetings and public rallies, in Kashmir it is a low key affair due to security reasons.
BJP has deployed Union ministers Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Jitendra Singh and Anurag Thakur besides national general secretary Tarun Chug and national spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain for poll campaigning.
Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi addressed an election meeting in Kupwara on November 19 while BJP national spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain visited Srinagar on Friday.
Union minister Anurag Thakur has been on campaign trail in Jammu and BJP general secretary Tarun Chug has addressed rallies in Samba and Kathua districts during the past few days.
According to the JK BJP, leaders like Smriti Irani, Krishan Pal Gujjar, Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ and Rajya Sabha member Zafar Islam are expected to join the campaign.
The BJP has made the issue of alleged land encroachments by former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah and other leaders of the Gupkar alliance a major poll plank while reaching out to certain communities including Muslims and Gujjars.
The BJP has planned digital rallies and door-to-door campaigning as well as social media campaigns by employing around 800 IT people in most of the districts, a party leader said. However, the opposition has accused the BJP of forcing them to keep their campaigning a low key affair due to lack of security.
Head of the Gupkar alliance and former chief minister Farooq Abdullah gave a video call message to people and appealed them to vote for its candidates.
“I want to appeal to you to vote for alliance candidates. If we have to be successful, then we have to vote for the alliance. This alliance has been formed to restore special status – Article 370 and Article 35-A. We have come together to keep this state united,” the NC chief said.
“It is my urgent request to you not to vote for anyone else and come out in large numbers and vote for the alliance candidates,” he said.
PDP president and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti is campaigning for the alliance candidates in south Kashmir and has addressed some meetings too.
On Wednesday, she visited Shopian district to campaign for her candidate at Zainapora and said “The BJP is feeling unnerved over the PAGD’s decision of joining the DDC poll fray and that was why our candidates are barred from going for campaigning.”
She claimed the PAGD’s Zainapora candidate was not allowed to come out of his home for campaigning for the past 15 days.
The Congress alleged that the security of its former MLA Hajir Rashid of Sopore was withdrawn.