About two per cent of the electorate voted in the first five hours of polling in 49 wards of urban local bodies in militancy-wracked Kashmir Valley, where elections are being held amid tight security, officials said Wednesday. Voting for the second of the four-phased elections in the Valley began at 6 am and will end at 4 pm. "Only 1.8 per cent of the 2.20 lakh electorate have cast their votes in the first five hours," an official said. Of the 1.78 lakh voters in 19 wards of Srinagar Municipal Corporation, only 1.3 per cent turned up to exercise their franchise at the heavily fortified polling stations. Polling was brisker in Bandipora district with 17.4 per cent of 8,300 voters casting their votes by 11.00 am, he said. The poll percentage in north Kashmir's Sopore and south Kashmir's Anantnag municipal areas was 2.3 per cent and 0.7 per cent, respectively.
Polling is going on amidst stringent security arrangements at 544 polling stations across the state and would end at 4 pm. Over 1,000 candidates - 881 in Jammu division and 148 in Kashmir division - are in the fray for 263 municipal wards in both the divisions. Sixty-nine wards in the Valley have been won uncontested. The elections, covering 79 municipal bodies with an electorate of about 17 lakh, are being held in four phases. A total of 3,372 nominations have been filed for 1,145 wards. The next phases will take place on October 13 and October 16. The urban local body polls were announced last month. Two major political parties -- the National Conference and the PDP -- have boycotted the elections accusing the Centre of not taking a firm stand on protection of Article 35-A of the Constitution, which is facing a legal challenge in the Supreme Court.
Militants have issued threats to anyone participating in these polls, resulting in absence of any campaigning by the candidates. Two National Conference workers were killed last week. In dozens of wards, especially in south Kashmir, no candidate filed nomination papers. Candidates who are contesting have been moved to safe locations and their details have not been made public.