Counting of votes underway in Jammu and Kashmir (Lead)

December 28th, 2008 - 11:39 am ICT by IANS  

Srinagar/Jammu, Dec 28 (IANS) Counting of the votes polled in Jammu and Kashmir’s staggered assembly elections began Sunday as analysts predicted a fractured verdict for the 11th state assembly.Chief Electoral Officer B.R. Sharma said the counting process kicked off at 9 a.m. at all the 22 district headquarters of the state amid strict security arrangements.

An estimated 63 percent of the electorate defied boycott calls from separatist groups to vote in the seven-phase elections that began Nov 17 and ended Dec 24.

Analysts believe that the mandate for the 87-member assembly would be fractured and no party will be in a position to form the government on its own.

“I don’t think any party can cross the magic number,” said Tahir Mohiudin, editor of an Urdu weekly.

Tahir echoed a widely held perception about the results of the election that saw the highest turnout since 1989 when a separatist campaign began in Jammu and Kashmir. The 2008 elections also had a huge number of 1,353 candidates, highest since 1957 when the first legislative assembly polls were held.

In the last elections in 2002, the National Conference, which emerged as the single largest party in the state, had bagged 28 seats, the Congress 20, the PDP 16 and independents 15.

The Panthers Party had won four seats and the Communist Party of India-Marxist two. The Bharatiya Janata Party had won only one seat.

In Srinagar, counting for the eight assembly constituencies started at the Sher-e-Kashmir Convention Centre SKICC on the banks of the Dal Lake.

Former chief minister Farooq Abdullah contested from Hazratbal and Sonawar constituencies of Srinagar. His son and National Conference president Omar Abdullah fought from north Kashmir Ganderbal seat.

Others awaiting the verdict are two former chief ministers, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Ghulam Nabi Azad of the Congress.

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