The maiden Block Development Council (BDC) in Jammu and Kashmir recorded an overall turnout of 98.3 per cent on Thursday, with Congress, NC and PDP boycotting the first electoral exercise after the abrogation of Article 370 and state's special status. According to the Chief Electoral Officer Shailendra Kumar, Srinagar district witnessed the highest poll percentage of 100 per cent while southern districts of Shopian and Pulwama recorded the lowest percentage of 85.3 and 86.2 percent respectively in Kashmir Division.
The polls were held in 310 blocks in the state and 1,092 candidates were in the fray, of whom 27 were elected unopposed to elect chairpersons of BDC. The polling began at 9 a.m. and ended at 1 pm and the vote counting was done 3 pm onwards. There were about 26,629 electors — 8,313 women and 18,316 men — for the polls to elect chairpersons of BDCs, which are organisations in the second tier of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs). PRIs consist of three levels — village, block and district — and election for the first tier were held last year, which was also boycotted by the National Conference (NC) and the People's Democratic Party (PDP).
The poll percentage for the 10 districts in the Kashmir region was 93.65 per cent and 99.4 per cent for the 10 districts in the Jammu region, Kumar said. Srinagar recorded a 100 per cent turnout, the highest in the Valley, while Shopian and Pulwama districts saw turnouts of 85.3 and 86.2 per cent respectively, the lowest in the region, he said. In the Jammu region, Reasi saw a 99.7 per cent turnout and Jammu 99.5 per cent. Ladakh recorded 97.8 per cent polling, Kumar said, adding that the election was held through secret ballot.
The highest number of candidates were in north Kashmir's Kupwara district (101) and the lowest in south Kashmir's Shopian (4). There are 316 blocks in the state, but the election will be held in 310 as two are without elected panches and sarpanches, and four blocks reserved for women have no women candidates, the officials said. Congress, CPI(M), NC and PDP did not take part in the elections, which are being held on party basis, leaving the field open to the BJP, that had candidates in 280 blocks, and Independents.
Independent candidates bagged a maximum number of blocks with 217, followed by BJP with 81 blocks, JKNPP 08 and Indian National Congress (INC) 1, Kumar said at a press conference here. In Kashmir Division, he said, out of 128 blocks, Independents got 109 blocks while BJP bagged 18 and INC 1. Similarly, in Jammu Division, Independents bagged 88 blocks followed by BJP with 52 and JKNPP 08. In Ladakh Division, independent candidates got 20 while BJP bagged 11 blocks in the elections.
The Congress had announced its decision to boycott the elections citing "indifferent attitude" of the state administration and continued detention of its leaders in Kashmir. The NC had slammed the decision to hold BDC elections, alleging it is "the biggest mockery of democracy" to hold polls when the entire leadership of the state is "under detention". There was one polling station for one BDC, and accordingly, 283 polling stations were set up in the state, one in each block where elections were held, the officials said.
(Inputs from agency)