Counting of votes for 280 DDC seats to begin on Tuesday

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Srinagar/Jammu, Dec 21 (PTI) The fate of nearly 2,200 candidates for the 280 District Development Council (DDC) seats in Jammu and Kashmir will be decided on Tuesday, as counting of votes will begin for the eight-phase polls held for the first time in the union territory.

Talking to reporters in Jammu, State Election Commissioner K K Sharma on Monday said all necessary arrangements for the counting of votes have been made.

The polling was held over eight phases beginning November 28 and ending on December 19 as 51.42 per cent of the 57 lakh eligible voters exercised their franchise in the elections, which were largely peaceful.

Sharma directed the deputy commissioners that COVID-19 protocols must be observed through mandatory masks and hand sanitiser at each table, besides all the counting staff and other officials should compulsorily wear masks before entering the counting halls.

Officials in the State Election Commission said a total of 2,178 candidates, including over 450 women, were in the fray for the 280 DDC seats.

The elections to this third tier of the Panchayati Raj system were held for the first time in Jammu and Kashmir and were the first mass polls after the abrogation of provisions of Article 370 in August 2019.

Seven Kashmir-centric mainstream political parties, including the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party, contested the polls in an alliance under the banner of the Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) formed for the restoration of Article 370.

The Congress was initially a part of the PAGD but distanced itself from the alliance as the BJP targeted the opposition party for being in league with the 'Gupkar Gang'.

Although the Congress went alone in the last seven phases, it is widely believed that its understanding with the PAGD remains intact.

The PAGD is expected to emerge as the single largest grouping at the hustings on Tuesday, followed by the BJP in a close second position while the Congress is expected to fill the third position.

Meanwhile, all necessary arrangements have been made for counting of votes, which will begin at 9 am in all 20 districts of the union territory.

State Election Commissioner Sharma on Sunday reviewed preparations and other arrangements for the counting process.

'The Returning Officers will be incharge of the counting process for each DDC constituency. The entire counting exercise will be monitored and recorded to achieve full transparency,' Sharma said.

He said counting of ballot papers would be taken up on a round-wise basis after proper mixing of ballot papers from different polling stations as per the prescribed procedure and counting guidelines.

On the implementation of necessary COVID-19 protocols, Sharma said directions have already been issued to concerned deputy commissioners to adhere to coronavirus standard operating procedures (SOPs) during the counting process. PTI MIJ AB SMN SMN