The boycott of urban local body polls by several political parties, including the PDP and the NC, failed to dampen the spirit of voters in the Jammu and the Ladakh regions as they came out in large numbers to vote in the first phase of elections on Monday.
Long queues of enthusiastic voters were seen outside the polling stations in Jammu, Poonch, Rajouri districts of the Jammu region and Leh and Kargil in Ladakh the areas of the state which are almost militancy-free and have always ignored boycott calls given by separatists.
Adequate security arrangements have been made for peaceful conduct of elections across the state and officials said polling was going on smoothly.
There was no major poll-related violence reported from anywhere, they said.
The National Conference and the PDP, the two parties with large support bases in the region, along with CPI(M) and BSP have stayed away from the polls in protests against Article 35A of the constitution being challenged in the Supreme Court, and also over deteriorating law and order in the Valley.
In this phase, 78 candidates 69 in Kashmir and nine in Jammu region - have already been elected unopposed.
In the first eight hours of voting, which started at 7 am, the Kargil district, which has an electorate strength of 6,069 in 13 wards, is leading the turnout chart with 77.3 per cent followed by Rajouri at 76.9, out of its 25,675 voters.
Jammu, having 4,42,180 electorates in 153 municipal bodies, including 75 wards of Jammu municipal corporation, has recorded a voter turnout of 60.6 per cent till 3 pm, while the 26 wards of Poonch district witnessed a turnout of 70.9 per cent, out of 15,976 voters, according to officials.
The Leh district, with strength of 14,156 eligible voters, has recorded 51.6 per cent turnout, one hour before the scheduled closure of the polling at 4 pm, officials of state election commission said.
The last elections to the municipal bodies in the state were held in 2005 and its five-year term expired in February 2010.
Enthusiastic voters started turning up at the polling stations across the Jammu and Ladakh regions early to exercise their democratic right.
"By 10 am, long queues of voters were visible in almost all polling stations, whether in the border districts of Poonch and Rajouri or along the International Border in the Jammu region," an official said.
Rampal, a resident of Arnia along the International Border, told PTI, "Voting is my democratic right and I have exercised my franchise to pick up the best candidate who could address local issues like lack of drainage, repair of roads or street lighting to the best satisfaction of the residents."
He said the election has provided them an opportunity and it is not right to waste it.
Police and paramilitary personnel were deployed in strength across 820 polling stations - 150 in the Kashmir division including Ladakh, and 670 in the Jammu province, the officials said.
They said basic minimum facilities have been ensured in all the polling stations across the state for voting.
He said the government has also declared holiday on the day of poll in the municipal areas going to polls so as to enable the voters to cast their vote.
In today's phase, voting took place in 75 wards in the Jammu municipal corporation, 79 in seven municipal committees in the Jammu district, 63 in five municipal committees in Rajouri, 30 in two municipal committees in Poonch and 13 each in municipal committees in Leh and Kargil.
The second phase of polling covering 384 wards will be held on October 10 followed by third phase covering 207 wards on October 13 and the last phase covering 132 wards on October 16. The counting of votes will be done on October 20.
As many as 2,990 candidates are in the fray for the four-phased elections covering a total of 1,145 wards, including the municipal corporations for the twin capitals of Jammu and Srinagar.
As many as 2,137 candidates are in fray from Jammu, 787 from Kashmir and 66 from Ladakh.
In all the four phases, as many as 244 candidates -- 231 in Kashmir and 13 in Jammu -- have been declared elected unopposed.
There are 16,97,291 eligible voters in the municipal polls.
The Kashmir Valley has the highest number of 598 wards and an electorate population of 10,32,498, while Jammu has 521 wards with 6,44,568 voters. The Ladakh region has 26 wards with a 20,225 electorate.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)