Heavy turn-out in villages along LoC, IB in Jammu8 May 2011
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: A heavy turnout was recorded in the Panchayats located on the villages close to the Line of Control (LoC) and the International Border (IB) in Rajouri and Kathua districts today. As against 80.3 per cent polling recorded in eight blocks of seven districts during seventh out of 16 phase Panchayat elections today, most of the border villages accounted for about 90 per cent polling. Polling was suspended in Ward No. 3, Bhaiya Panchayat Halqa of Hiranagar block in Kathua district as symbol of one of the contestant, Madan Lal, for the post of Sarpanch, hadnít been notified in the ballot paper. Polling would be held at Bhaiya at a date to be notified later by the Election Department. Held under the watchful eyes of police and para-military personnel, the polling in all Panchayat Halqas located near the LoC in Manjakote block of Rajouri district and Hiranagar block of Kathua district passed off peacefully. There was more turn-out in the border belts than the general areas, official sources said. Chief Electoral Officer (CEO)-cum-Home Secretary, B R Sharma said polling remained peaceful in all Sarpanch and Panch constituencies of eight blocks. With todayís election, seven phases of polling has passed off peacefully maintaining percentage of above 80 in all phases. Re-poll was also held today at Bakihakar Panchayat Halqa in Rajwara block of Kupwara district where 92 per cent polling was recorded. Large queue of voters were seen at Pansar, Manyari, Chakra, Bobiya and other border areas falling in Hiranagar block of Kathua district that went to polls today. People had queued up in the border belts right from the morning to vote for the candidates of their choice. There was absolutely no fear of Pakistani guns on the faces of border villagers as they voted fearlessly and without any intimidation. The Border Security Force (BSF) maintained a strict vigil on Pakistani posts while para-military CRPF and police guarded the sensitive polling stations, located close to the border areas. Though the IB in Hiranagar sector had been peaceful for the past few months with no infiltration attempt reported anywhere in the sector, majority of polling stations in the block had been marked as sensitive as they fell close to Indo-Pak border. A group of militants had infiltrated into main Jammu-Pathankote National Highway from Hiranagar sector during 2002 Assembly elections and caused a number of casualties on the highway and Hiranagar villages before being eliminated. SSP Kathua J L Sharma, Deputy Commissioner Zahida Khan and Additional SP Kathua Mahadeep Singh visited forward villages of Hiranagar block to supervise polling. On the LoC too, people voted in large numbers defying the threats of firing from across LoC or by the militants in Manjakote block of Rajouri district. Entire Gambhir area including Naika Panj Grain, Rajdhani, Upper Rajdhani, Sarora, Bagla, Dhumi Tarat and Thandi Kassi etc, falling close to LoC, recorded a huge turn out. Though Manjakote block accounted for 79.4 per cent polling, sources said, the turn-out was much higher in the villages falling close to the LoC. In some of the polling stations, located near the LoC, the turn-out was as high as 90 per cent. The people had queued up outside the polling booths much before start of the voting and waited for their turn for nearly two hours to cast their votes. DIG Rajouri-Poonch range Rajesh Kumar, SSP Rajouri Anand Jain and Deputy Commissioner, Rajouri, G A Khwaja supervised polling in Rajouri district. At Fatehpur Gurian polling station in Rajouri block, supporters of two candidates clashed briefly but police and para-military personnel dispersed them. Polling went on without any interruption. Polling in five Panchayats of Manjakote block including Galhuti Upper, Panjgrain Upper-A, Panjgrain Upper-B, Rajdhani Upper and Saroola Upper had been suspended due to the High Court order. Polling in three Panchayats of Kralpora block of Kupwara district including Kerian Bore, Mundian and Pathran was withheld as the areas were snow bound. Polling in snowbound blocks of Kralpora would be held on June 6. Sources said 80.3 per cent voting was today recorded in seventh phase of polling. Out of a total of 2.94 lakh votes in eight blocks of seven districts, 2.36 lakh exercised their right to franchise. Highest voting percentage of 89.5 was recorded in Kralpora block of Kupwara while lowest turn-out of 74 per cent was reported from Shangus block of Anantnag district. Voting percentage in six other blocks include 75 in Kunzer, Baramulla, 84 in Narbal, Budgam, 81 in Pouni, Reasi, 78.5 in Hiranagar, Kathua, 79.4 in Manjakote, Rajouri and 83.3 in Rajouri block. A total of 245 Sarpanch and 1765 Panch constituencies were involved in todayís voting. While polling had already been suspended in eight Panchayat Halqas of Manjakote and Kralpora and was deferred in one Halqa of Hiranagar today, rest of the Sarpanches and Panches, where voting was held, the results were announced by late tonight. Seven Sarpanches including five in Kunzer block of Baramulla and one each in Shangus block of Anantnag and Manjakote block of Rajouri had already been declared as unopposed. A total of 460 Panches including 297 male and 163 female had also been elected unopposed. Seventy-one Panches had been declared elected unopposed in Kralpora, Kupwara, 115 in Kunzer, Baramulla, 22 in Narbal, Budgam, 27 in Shangus, Anantnag, 63 in Pouni, Reasi, 38 in Hiranagar, Kathua and 62 each in Rajouri and Manjakote blocks of Rajouri district. A total of 893 candidates were in fray for the posts of Sarpanches today, only nine of them women. For Panch constituencies, there were 2938 contestants including 1988 male and 950 females. In 29 Panch constituencies, no nominations had been filed. They included highest number of 25 Panch segments of Kunzer, one in Narbal and three in Shangus, all in the Kashmir valley. Out of a total of 29,837 electorates in Kralpora block of Kupwara, 26,704 cast their votes while 28,290 votes were polled in Kunzer, Baramulla from a total of 37,720 voters. In Narbal block of Budgam, 34,552 people cast their votes from a total of 41,133 while in Shangus, Anantnag, 25,537 people turned up for polling out of a total of 34,510 electorates. In Pouni block of Reasi, 21,069 votes were polled, the total being 26,011 while 45,496 electorates used their right to vote in Hiranagar block out of a total of 57,890 votes. In Manjakote and Rajouri blocks of Rajouri district, 21,248 and 33,565 votes were polled from a total of 26,761 and 40,294 electorates respectively. In Kralpora, 39 Sarpanch and 278 Panch constituencies were involved in todayís voting while in Kunzer, 33 posts of Sarpanches and 258 of Panches were at stake. In Narbal, 24 Sarpanch and 211 Panch constituencies were involved in polling while in Shangus, 31 Sarpanch and 196 Panch seats were at stake. In Pouni block of Reasi, 21 Sarpanch and 158 Panch seats were involved while in Hiranagar, 33 Sarpanch and 226 Panch constituencies were involved in the polling. In Manjakote and Rajouri blocks of Rajouri district, 31 and 33 Sarpanch and 194 and 244 Panch constituencies were at stake. Our Srinagar correspondent adds- Local issues drove the electorate to the booths and enthusiasm could be seen in most of them as voting was held for seventh phase of Panchayat polls in 4 blocks of the Valley. 'I have come here to vote so that the basic issues confronting the masses are solved. There is no politics attached to the Panchayat elections and it is gratifying to note that people in encouraging numbers are voting since they want a solution to their problems,' said Mohammad Ramzan, a resident of Narbal. He was joined by others in his area while waiting for their turn to exercise their franchise. They vow to elect an honest and upright candidate for the post of Sarpanch and same holds true for Panches as well. 'We will vote for an educated and honest person for the position of Sarpanch. Only literate person can solve our problems otherwise we would continue to suffer on developmental front. We are facing issues on account of lack of clean drinking water, bad roads and erratic power supply. These can be solved only when a Sarpanch can put forward his point and same is possible with a learned candidate,' said a group of youth while sharing their views. In the Shangus block, people too were upset about their problems and they opined that their elected candidate would make a difference. 'These are non-party elections and are being organized for the betterment of common masses. As such there is no reason for any person not to vote since everybody wants his or her area to get developed. Literate elected representatives can really make a difference and this is what I want from my Sarpanch as well as Panches,' said Mohammad Maqbool, a resident of Shangus. 'An MLA always lives under the security of a gun and as such the people whom he or she represents seldom get a chance to meet him or her. This is not true for a Sarpanch and the team of Panches. They are available to us all the times and as such we can get in touch with them regarding the problems being faced by us. He or she too face the problem and as such would be eager to solve it at the earliest,' said Ghulam Rasool, a resident of the area.