Over 40 percent voting in Baramulla, 61 in Ladakh (Fifth Lead)

May 13th, 2009 - 8:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Baramulla, May 13 (IANS) Hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic voters Wednesday defied a boycott call by separatists and threats from militant groups to vote in Jammu and Kashmir’s Baramulla constituency Wednesday.
According to officials, some 421,000 voters of over one million electorate cast their votes by 5 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 61 when the polling closed. Voting couldn’t be held at two polling stations in Zanskar assembly segment of Ladakh because poll staff and material could not reach the snow bound areas on time.

The polling in the two polling stations would now be held May 15, a day before poll results are declared, state’s chief electoral officer B.R. Sharma told reporters.

“Baramulla saw over 40 percent voting and in Ladakh it was 61,” Sharm said.

The voting percentages are expected to go up as the data was still being collated from some remote areas.

The voting percentage in Baramulla was far higher 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.

Highest polling was recorded in Handwara (61 percent) while Sopore - a Jamaat-e-Islami stronghold - saw lowest at 10.

“Polling has been peaceful throughout the Baramulla and Ladakh constituencies,” Sharma said.

Separatist leaders had insisted on boycott of the polls while Pakistan-based militant groups - the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the United Jehad Council - had threatened people to vote “at their own peril”.

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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