In the first phase, around 18 constituencies will go to polls in Jammu region while 25 will go to polls in Kashmir region

All arrangements are in place for voting for Phase I of the first-ever District Development Council (DDC) polls in Jammu and Kashmir scheduled for tomorrow.

The polls, being held on party lines, will be conducted in eight phases between November 8 and December 19. Elections are being held for 280 DDC seats. In the first phase, around 18 constituencies will go to polls in Jammu region while 25 will go to polls in Kashmir region.

In the first major political activity since the abrogation of Article 370, the polling will be held through ballot boxes through Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and postal ballots will be available for COVID-19 patients, those in isolation, those who are physically unwell and senior citizens.

There are 14 seats in each of the 20 districts in Jammu & Kashmir. These councils will comprise all directly elected members from the 14 constituencies in a district. According to the government, Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) representing a part or whole of the district will also be included in the DDC.

Apart from them, Chairpersons of the Block Development Councils within a given district will also be members of the DDC.

Along with the DDC elections, by-polls for vacant ‘sarpanch’ and ‘panch’ seats in Panchayats and for Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) will be held simultaneously, the J&K State Election Commission has announced.

The first phase of polling will decide the fate of 1,475 candidates out of which 296 candidates are contesting in the maiden DDC polls including 172 from Kashmir valley and 124 from Jammu region. There are around 899 candidates contesting for Panch seats and 280 are contesting for Sarpanch seats.

For the first time, West Pakistan refugees will be entitled to exercise their franchise during the DDC polls.

Meanwhile, all arrangements are in place for the safe and smooth conduction of the exercise. According to an official statement by the State Election Commissioner, all the necessary COVID-19 Protocols have been put in place to ensure smooth polling activity.

Earlier this week, Lt Governor of J&K, Manoj Sinha chaired a meeting with Divisional Commissioners, Deputy Commissioners and Superintendents of Police to ensure the same.

In a tweet later, he wrote, “In view of the ensuing DDC election and by-elections for Panchayats and ULB, reviewed the election preparedness of the administration in a high-level meeting with Divisional Commissioners, Deputy Commissioners, and Superintendents of Police.”

Further tweeting about the same, he said, “Directed DCs and SPs to meticulously ensure free movement of candidates of all parties, security arrangements and other preparatory measures for the ensuing elections. Officials to take requisite measures to maintain neutrality and ensure free and fair election.”

About 2,644 polling stations have been set up and voting will take place from 7 AM to 2 PM.

Counting of votes will be taken up on December 22 and the entire process will be completed by December 24.