J&K votes in first election after losing special status
Polling began today in Jammu and Kashmir for the District Development Council (DDC), marking the first election since the former state was reorganized as a Union Territory last year. The local body polls are being seen as a triangular contest, between the newly-formed People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), the Bharatiya Janata Party, and Apni Party launched by Altaf Bukhari. Here are more details.
The PAGD is an amalgam of several mainstream parties, including the National Conference (NC), People's Democratic Party (PDP), the Communist Party of India (M) and others. The coalition seeks to restore Jammu and Kashmir's special status, that was revoked by the Centre last year. Meanwhile, the BJP, which is in power at the Centre, has slammed the coalition and called it anti-national.
The first phase of the elections began this morning. The polls will be held in eight phases, and continue until December 19. A total of 1,427 candidates are in the race and over seven lakh voters are eligible to exercise their right. Out of the eligible voters, 3.72 lakh are from Kashmir and 3.28 lakh belong to the Jammu division.
There are 280 DDC seats in the union territory, 140 each in the Jammu and Kashmir regions. In the first phase, 43 constituencies, 25 in Kashmir and 18 in Jammu, have gone to polls. 296 candidates are in the race in the first phase, including 207 men and 89 women candidates. 2,146 polling stations have been set up.
Furthermore, by-elections to 12,153 panchayat constituencies are also scheduled along with the DDC polls. Out of them, a major portion, 11,814, are in Kashmir Valley, while the remaining 339 are in Jammu. Special arrangements have also been made to ensure social distancing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said. The counting of votes will take place on December 22.