Enthusiastic polling in Jammu region (Lead)December 17th, 2008 - 1:22 pm ICT by IANS
Jammu, Dec 17 (IANS) Cold weather and overnight rain and snow did not deter enthusiastic voters from lining up at polling booths for the sixth phase of the Jammu and Kashmir assembly elections Wednesday in three districts of the Jammu region, especially Bhaderwah, from where former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad is contesting the polls. With over 450,000 voters and 108 candidates for the six seats at stake in Ramban, Doda and Kishtwar districts, there was massive interest in the sixth phase of elections.
Azad, a Congress candidate, is safely placed in Bhaderwah although Mohammad Aslam Goni of the National Conference (NC) is expected to give a semblance of a contest. Mujib Ali of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) does not have much of a following, while the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Daya Krishan Kotwal is expected to garner some Hindu votes.
Shazia Wafai, a housewife, said: “I will vote for Azad so that he can become chief minister again.”
Many in the constituency were angry that Azad was made to quit as chief minister following the Amarnath land row by the Kashmir-centric PDP.
Imtiyaz Khateeb, a college student, said he and his friends have “decided to vote for Azad”.
“After casting our vote, we will get others to vote as early as possible,” he added.
NC supporters too were eager to vote early for Goni, whose family has strong roots in the town.
“Azad is good but we have to look at the larger picture. I don’t think the Congress will be able to form the government this time,” said Javed Iqbal, who is a long time NC supporter.
Azad had won the seat with a huge margin of 58,000 in a by-election in April 2006. His nearest BJP rival had lost his deposit. There are 19 candidates in the fray in this constituency.
Deployment of poll officials in remote and far flung mountainous polling stations in Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban districts had become a big challenge amidst snowfall and rains since Tuesday afternoon.
Doda Deputy Commissioner Syed Sharif-ud-din said: “We have deployed security personnel but the weather is throwing a bigger challenge than security. We have all our contingency plans in place for any weather related eventuality.”
Right from Congress president Sonia Gandhi to candidates contesting in the most hilly belt of Jammu region, all have focused on the lack of development and promised these areas would get better roads, schools, bridges, water and electricity.
The Congress, in particular, had something to show. Azad had started a series of development works in all the areas, improving roads and increasing access to educational institutions.
“This is what we have delivered but for doing most of the things to improve your lives we need a clear mandate from you,” Sonia Gandhi had asked the voters here in a pre-poll rally.
NC leaders Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah, and PDP leaders Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and his daughter Mehbooba Mufti too have been focusing on the lack of development in the areas. All of them blamed one another and vowed to transform the landscape of these mountainous areas.