Moderate polling in Srinagar, brisk in Jammu (Third Lead)

December 24th, 2008 - 5:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Srinagar/Jammu, Dec 24 (IANS) The crucial last phase of the staggered Jammu and Kashmir polls saw moderate to brisk voting in the two capitals of the state Wednesday during which minor clashes between police and anti-election protesters broke out in Srinagar.The state was a study in contrasts on the last day of the seven-phase polling, with long queues outside polling booths in Jammu but lower turnout in Srinagar.

The voter turnout in Srinagar’s eight constituencies till 2 p.m. was about 13 percent while as in the 21 seats in Jammu, the average percentage was recorded over 35, according to officials.

However, the officials said the poll percentage in Srinagar constituencies till the afternoon was remarkably higher than the overall figures of the last elections in 2002.

Since the separatist campaign began in 1989, no Srinagar constituency had recorded even 10 percent voting in any election. But Wednesday was different.

Nearly 23 percent voting was recorded in Sonawar constituency where less than 10 percent polling was recorded in the last elections.

Twenty percent voters cast their votes in the Hazratbal constituency where overall percentage in 2002 was a mere 2.12 percent.

Former chief minister and National Conference patron Farooq Abdullah is contesting from Hazratbal and Sonawar constituencies.

Zadibal, which saw less than five percent voting in 2002, recorded eight percent.

In Idgah, 9.5 percent of voters exercised their franchise while in 2002 only 4.75 percent polling was recorded.

Khanyar constituency witnessed 11.4 percent electorate participating — marginally higher than the four percent of 2002.

Habba Kadal recorded over six percent voting where only 3.2 voting percentage was recorded in 2002.

In Amira Kadal, eight percent voting was recorded till 2 p.m. as compared to three percent in 2002.

In Batamaloo constituency, 17 percent of the electorate had cast their vote.

In Srinagar, tension was palpable with the separatist Hurriyat Conference calling for a total boycott of the polls and sporadic protests breaking out.

Streets in Srinagar were deserted and there was little movement of vehicles or pedestrians, especially in old city areas.

In the eight constituencies, authorities stopped the movement of all people and vehicles except those of poll officials and security forces.

Even though the separatists’ poll boycott held a little sway in Srinagar there were some who felt differently.

Outside the Dhobighat polling station in Hazratbal, Showkat Ahmad, 18, was waiting in a small queue for his turn to vote.

“I am voting for the first time and my need is a government job. I have no other consideration and I hope my vote helps the candidate who gets me a job after winning the elections,” he said.

With 393 contestants, this final phase has the highest number of candidates since the staggered elections began Nov 17.

In Jammu, while polling got off to a sluggish start in the cold and foggy morning, voters in the 13 constituencies in Jammu and Samba districts came out as the day progressed.

Former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad was among the first to cast his vote in the Jammu East constituency.

He said after casting his vote: “I am confident that the Congress will form the next government in Jammu and Kashmir on its own.”

Security was tight after the arrest of three terrorists of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), who police said were planning a suicide attack in the winter capital. But that did not deter voters from coming out.

In Jammu city, the atmosphere was festive with voters turning up in their festive best to take advantage of the holiday that the government had declared.

In the border areas of the region as well, people came out in large numbers to vote for peace at a time when tension has escalated between India and Pakistan.

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