Voting for 5th phase of J&K panchayat polls underway

Srinagar (Jammu and Kashmir) [India], Nov 29 (ANI): The polling for the 5th phase of panchayat elections began in Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday. The polling, which commenced at 8 am, will conclude at 2 pm. As of now, no violence has been reported from any part of the state where the voting is taking place. The voting is taking place in a total of 37 blocks including 19 in seven districts of Jammu division and 18 blocks of Kashmir Valley. According to the State Election Commission, after withdrawal and scrutiny, 4,763 candidates are in the fray for 309 sarpanch and 1,534 panch seats in the fifth phase, while 118 sarpanches and 1,046 panches have been elected unopposed. For hassle-free voting, the poll body has set up as many as 2,512 polling stations across the region including 1,743 in Jammu division and 769 in Kashmir Valley. Moreover, 848 polling booths have been categorized as hypersensitive. Security has been beefed up across the state so that the elections are conducted in a peaceful manner. Majority of the candidates have been provided with either cluster security or individually in the region. The overall turnout for the fourth phase of panchayat body elections which concluded peacefully on November 27 was 71.3 per cent. According to the Chief Electoral Officer of Jammu and Kashmir, Shaleen Kabra, over 82 per cent polling was registered in Jammu division and 32.3 per cent in Kashmir division in the fourth phase of voting. The panchayat elections are being held in nine phases in the state. The sixth phase of panchayat polling is scheduled to take place on December 1 and the counting of votes will take place on the same day. The last panchayat polls in the state took place in 2001. The current round of panchayat elections were announced last month, but two major political parties which dominate the region-the National Conference and the People's Democratic Party (PDP) boycotted the polls accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led NAD government at the Centre of not taking a firm stand on the protection of Article 35(A) of the Constitution which has been challenged in the Supreme Court. (ANI)

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