More Falsehoods

The municipal elections in the Valley were a total sham

Fayaz Bukhari

Srinagar: No posters, no banners, no campaigns, nothing that could have indicated that an election was underway. Instead, electoral candidates were locked inside hotel rooms under tight security, completely unfamiliar to the electorate. This was how the Municipal elections were held in Kashmir recently.

Security forces confront protestors in Srinagar

The Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) ward Soura is a typical example of sham elections where even contesting candidate didn’t vote. In an electorate of 11,265 where three candidates were contesting, not a single vote was cast in the ward. Of the three candidates, including a Kashmiri Pandit contesting on a BJP ticket, two were not eligible to vote in the ward as they were outsiders and the third did not exercise his franchise.

A candidate won in a ward in the Valley where just three votes were cast; in Baramulla, a candidate won securing the lone vote cast.

The voter turnout of 4.27 per cent in these polls was the lowest in any election held in Jammu and Kashmir since 1951. Until now, 1989 has been considered the worst year as far as election turnouts go. In the Lok Sabha elections that year, the turnout was only 5.18 per cent in the Baramulla and Anantnag parliamentary seats that went to the polls and the candidate from Srinagar was elected unopposed.

The bogusness of these ULB polls can be gauged from the fact that the candidates were faceless till the results were declared. The Election Commission held back the names until the day of voting. Those who voted knew their candidates’ names only when they went in to vote.

There was no election campaigning, not even a single poster was put in the area. The entire process was wrapped in secrecy and candidates were locked inside hotel rooms and held hostage. The election office even refused to allow free access to media to cover these elections.

According to official data, of the 598 wards spanning across 40 municipal bodies in 10 districts of Kashmir valley, polling was held only in 186 wards. The remaining 412 wards - constituting 68.89 per cent of the total — did not require any voting.

Over 30 per cent of wards in these 40 urban local bodies across Kashmir valley will remain unrepresented as no nomination papers were received from 181 wards (30.26 per cent). Out of the 598 wards, 231 wards - 38.62 per cent - were those which saw no contest and the solitary candidate in each of these wards was declared winner unopposed.

In these polls, six municipal bodies had two or less contesting candidates in total, with two of them without any candidate.

For Pulwama Municipal Committee, which has 13 wards, there were only two contesting candidates who won unopposed. Awantipora, Beerwah and Seer Hamdan Municipal Committees - all with 13 wards each - had only one contesting candidate each.

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