The state of Jammu and Kashmir is expected to witness multi-cornered fights across 1145 awards in the municipal elections slated this month despite hindrances from separatists and two dominant state parties, the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), giving a boycott call.
The elections are staggered in four phases -- October 8, 10, 13 and 16. Security in the state has beefed up for the elections.
According to information pouring in, 85 to 90 per cent wards will witness a tough battle between the contestants of various parties and independent candidates due to heavy participation of candidates.
The Congress party has pitted its candidates in majority wards. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) too is contesting on a large number of seats making inroads in the Valley. This municipal poll is likely to be a litmus test for the BJP as well as the Congress in the state as Independent candidates are likely to give a tough competition to both the national political parties. According to sources, PDP has allegedly put up independent candidates in several wards.
Candidates from different stratas, even as Independent, have thrown their hat in the ring even though Srinagar district in central Kashmir, Anantnag district in south Kashmir and districts of Baramulla, Bandipora, Kupwara in north Kashmir, and Handwara which falls in Kupwara district, are constantly under terror strike. In places like Kokernag, in 13 wards the contest is directly between Congress and Independents.
With no candidate coming forward in few of the scantly populated areas, as of now, 130 nominees have been elected unopposed, out of which nearly 60 are from Kashmir Valley.
According to the Election Commission, a total of 1283 candidates will be contesting in 422 municipal wards including Kupwara, Handwara, Bandipora and Baramulla in Phase One on October 8. Out of these 78 seats are uncontested.
Similarly, as many as 1095 candidates will be contesting in 384 municipal wards including Bhaderwah, Thatri, Ramban in the second phase scheduled on October 10. Out of these 69 seats are uncontested. The EC is yet to process the candidature of contestants for Phase Three and Phase four.
On September 8, NC president Farooq Abdullah announced his party's decision to boycott state as well as Lok Sabha polls until the Centre clarified its stand on the controversial Article 35A which gives special status to the state in which outsiders cannot own properties. However, former Chief Minister and Farooq's son, Omar Abdullah, clarified later that his party won't stop people from participating in the polls. A few days later, Mehbooba too announced her party's decision to boycott polls.
Security in the state has been tightened ahead of the polls and state. Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam had also announced that the Centre would provide a one-month extra salary to all those government employees who will be on poll duty.
"After the unfortunate incident occurred where three Special Police Officers (SPOs) were killed, the authorities have instructed all the SPOs deployed in the region pertaining to their safety and security," he added.