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In Pics: J&K Votes for First Time Since Abrogation of Article 370

Voting in the eight-phase elections to DDCs was held amid multilayered security arrangements.

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After the abrogation of Article 370 by the Central government on 5 August last year, the first phase of maiden District Development Council (DDC) elections in Jammu and Kashmir was held amid high security and communication clampdown in some places on Saturday, 28 November.

Voting in the eight-phase elections to DDCs and bypolls of Panchayat began at 7 am amid multilayered security arrangements.

Most of the voters went to polling for the sake of 'development', knowing that the district body elections don't have a political mandate to do or undo things.

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“I’ve come to vote to save myself from getting homeless. I came early in the morning and [I hope] there will be development,” a voter in Pahalgam area of south Kashmir’s Anantnag district told The Quint.

Several hutments belonging to the tribal Gujjar and Bakerwal families were demolished by the government earlier this month, with authorities calling the move an 'anti-encroachment' drive. This will be for the first time that West Pakistani refugees, Valmikies and Gurkhas will be exercising their franchise in these elections, PTI reported.

In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, people were urged to follow the guidelines issued by the Election Commission, besides using face masks and maintaining social distance during polling. However, no such Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) were followed. At most of the polling booths, nothing beyond thermal screening was done.

The polls are essentially a fight between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), a conglomerate of six major regional parties including National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party, People’s Conference. The alliance has a seat-sharing arrangement with Congress as well.

By-elections will be held in 12,153 panchayat seats and 234 urban local wards. The DDC election and the panchayat bypolls are being held in eight phases from 28 November to 19 December while the counting will be held on 22 December.

The Union Cabinet had adopted the 73rd Constitutional Amendment to the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, which was pending for 28 years. Jammu and Kashmir will see all three tiers of panchayati raj institutions for the first time.

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