J&K: First phase of DDC polls begin, 1475 candidates in fray

The first phase of the maiden District Development Council (DDC) polls, and the Panchayat by-elections, began on November 28 (Saturday) in the Indian union territory of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).
The polling has begun for the DDC polls and bypolls to panchyats and urban local bodies across Jammu and Kashmir for the first phase of the eight-phase process, the officials said.
296 candidates are contesting the first phase of the DDC polls — 172 from Kashmir division and 124 from Jammu. A total of 1,475 candidates are in the fray for the first phase that includes seats for Panchs and Sarpanchs also, officials said.
In all, 280 DDC members will be elected in the elections which will end on December 19. The counting will be held on December 22.
This is the first major electoral exercise after the central government scrapped the special status (Article 370) of the erstwhile state of J&K and bifurcated it into two union territories — J&K and Ladakh.
In the first phase of the DDC polls, officials said that 43 constituencies will go to polls — 25 in Kashmir and 18 in Jammu. In all, 2,644 polling stations have been set up for 7,03,620 electors in this phase.
Officials said the voting for this phase will be from 7 am to 2 pm.
The DDC polls are being held on party basis and 280 elected members will elect the chairman for district developmental boards.
Among the 280 DDC seats in the union territory – 140 each are in Jammu and Kashmir divisions i.e. 14 constituencies have been earmarked in each of the 20 districts of the union territory.
For the by-elections to Panchayats, 899 candidates are in the fray for the Panch seats and 280 for the Sarpanch seats.
The eight-phase elections are seen as a triangular contest among the Peoples’ Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), the BJP and the Apni Party. The PAGD is seeking the restoration of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.
Officials said the State Election Commissioner has directed for setting up of special polling stations for Kashmiri migrants at Jammu and Udhampur so that they can effectively exercise their right of franchise.