Over 33 percent voter turnout in Kashmir’s Baramulla (Third Lead)

May 13th, 2009 - 6:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Baramulla, May 13 (IANS) Hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic voters came out in Jammu and Kashmir’s Baramulla constituency Wednesday to exercise their democratic right despite a boycott call by separatists and threats from militant groups.
Some 360,000 voters of the over one million electorate cast their votes by 3 p.m. in Baramulla, once a hotbed of militancy and a stronghold of pro-Pakistan separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani.

The state’s cold desert region Ladakh saw a turnout of over 47 percent by the same time.

“Voting percentage at 3 p.m. in Baramulla was 33.17 and in Ladakh it was 47.67,” an official said.

The voting percentage in Baramulla is remarkably better than in Anantnag and Srinagar constituencies in the Kashmir Valley. The two constituencies, which voted in earlier rounds of the staggered Lok Sabha elections, had recorded an overall percentage of 26 and 24, respectively.

The official said the figure is likely to cross 40 percent in Baramulla as people in large numbers were outside various polling stations waiting to exercise their franchise two hours before the polling closed at 5 p.m.

Highest polling was recorded in Handwara, 61 percent, while Sopore - a Jamaat-e-Islami stronghold - saw lowest at 9.49.

Voting percentage recorded in Rafiabad was 52, followed by Sonawari 47, Gurez 44, Karnah 43, Kupwara 42, Lolab and Langate 33 each, Uri 32, Bandipora 28, Sangrama 23, Pattan 22, Gulmarg 19 and Baramulla 18.

“Polling has been peaceful throughout the Baramulla and Ladakh constituencies,” a police officer told IANS.

Baramulla had recorded 35.66 percent voting in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections while in Ladakh it was 73 percent then.

Baramulla is witnessing a triangular contest between Sharief-ud-Din Shariq (National Conference), Mohammed Dilawar Mir (Peoples Democratic Party) and Sajjad Gani Lone of the separatist People’s Conference.

All eyes are on Lone, the surprise entrant in the poll ring. Lone is the first separatist leader in Kashmir to contest the polls since an armed uprising broke out in 1989.

Voting picked up as the day progressed in Buddhist-dominated Ladakh where four candidates are in the fray. The main contest is between P. Namgyal (Congress) and Ghulam Hassan Khan (independent).

Ladakh has always been polarised between Buddhist and Muslim voters.

Senior separatist leaders including Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik are under house arrest to prevent anti-poll protests.

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