Defying terror threat and poll boycott over 20000 candidates joining electoral race

Defying terror threat and poll boycott call made by the separatists and some political groups, the state is heading for the restoration of grassroots democracy in an impressive way with over 20,000 candidates joining the electoral race in the first three phases of the nine-phased panchayat elections starting from November 17.
According to the official statistics of the state election department, over 20,000 candidates have filed nominations for sarpanch halqas and panch constituencies in the first three phases. In all, 165 blocks of the total 316 in J&K are going to polls in these phases. Barring south Kashmir and parts of central Kashmir, great eagerness and enthusiasm have been witnessed among the aspiring candidates for the panchayat elections. There are at least 8,649 candidates, comprising 1,886 for sarpanch halqas and 6,763 for panch constituencies, who have filed their nominations for the first phase of elections. In all, 536 sarpanch halqas, including 259 in Kashmir division, and 4,048 panch halqas spread over 47 blocks will go to polls in the first phase on November 17.
Similarly, there are 5,203 candidates, including 1,038 for sarpanch halqas and 4,165 for panch constituencies, have filed their nominations for the second phase of elections to be held on November 20. In this phase, the polling will be held in 468 panchayat halqas, including 291 in Kashmir division, and 3,610 panch segments spread over 40 blocks.
For the third phase of the elections, there are around 6,800 candidates, including 1,371 for sarpanch halqas and 5,426 candidates for panch segments in the fray. The elections in this phase spread over 43 blocks will be held in 553 panchayat halqas and 4,279 panch constituencies.
Meanwhile, people of the Kashmir valley, except south Kashmir and parts of central Kashmir, have braved the terror threats and poll boycott call given by the separatists and key political parties, including the National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
“At least 12 panchayat ghars have either been damaged or set on fire during the last two months (since the announcement of these elections),” Qazi Sarwar, director, rural development department, Kashmir, told Kashmir Post.
Sources said the panchayat ghars, mainly in south Kashmir, were set ablaze to create terror in the minds of the candidates and electorates to keep them away from the poll process. “However, such attempts have failed to dampen the spirits of the candidates, notwithstanding the fact that 16 elected sarpanches and panches were killed between 2011 and 2016,” sources added.
Shafiq Mir, chairman, All Jammu Kashmir Panchayat Conference, said, “Going by the participation trend, we are expecting that more than 1 lakh candidates will file their nominations in all nine phases. We had a firm belief that people want local governance at the grass-roots level.”