SRINAGAR: With the Peoples Democratic Party and National Conference out of the contest, the Bharatiya Janata Party is set to score big in the municipal elections in Jammu and Kashmir, polling for which begins on October 8 amid heightened security.

According to officials, the Hindu right wing party, which failed to win a single seat in the 2014 assembly elections in the state, is likely to gain control of at least seven municipal committees in the Kashmir Valley without facing a contest.

Elections for 624 wards in Kashmir are to be held in four phases between October 8 and October 16. There are 79 municipal bodies in J&K, including two municipal corporations in the twin capital cities, six municipal councils and 71 municipal committees.

Yesterday was the last date for filing nomination papers, and officials said not a single candidate had filed nomination papers for 177 wards in Kashmir, while 215 wards have only one contestant.

“At least 60 candidates from the BJP won their seats without even a contest, and the majority of them fall in south Kashmir, where out of 20 municipalities only four are likely to go to polls,” an official in the state’s election commission said.

In the volatile Shopian district, which has witnessed widespread violence and civilian and militant killings this year, all migrant Kashmir Pandit candidates won the wards without contest on BJP tickets, as no local resident filed their nomination papers.

Officials said the Hindu right wing party’s candidates in the Sopore area of north Kashmir won unopposed, as the Congress could not find candidates to contest amid fears of militant attacks. Sopore is the hometown of veteran Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani.

However, the capital Srinagar, where militancy has staged a comeback after many years of calm, is likely to witness some contest, with 330 people including several women filing their nomination papers for 74 wards of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation.

In an attempt to woo the people to jump into the electoral fray despite the threat of militant attacks, the state government recently announced sops including security for candidates, secure lodging in Srinagar and an attractive life insurance policy. The state government has also got 40,000 additional paramilitary forces to ensure security at polling stations during the elections.

However, the Hizbul Mujahideen's threat of attacks on candidates and voters, and the simmering situation over the Supreme Court hearings on Article 35-A, has evoked a cold response, “It makes no sense to hold elections at a time when the state is facing a challenging situation on the ground and in the apex court. These are sham elections,” senior National Conference leader Nasir Aslam Wani said.