Polling picks up in Jammu, clashes in Kashmir (Second Lead)

December 17th, 2008 - 4:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Srinagar/Jammu, Dec 17 (IANS) As the cloudy and bitterly cold weather improved by noon, more people queued up to vote in the sixth phase of the assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir Wednesday. But while polling was peaceful in Jammu, clashes were reported in parts of the Kashmir Valley.Despite a heavy cloud cover, voters turned up in almost all the 10 south Kashmir constituencies of Anantnag and Kulgam districts to elect representatives to the 87-member assembly.

In the Jammu region, where six seats in three districts went to the polls, around 40 percent voters had queued up to vote by noon. Former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad of the Congress is a heavyweight contestant Wednesday.

In Kashmir, Homeshalibugh constituency with 22.5 percent voting marked the lowest turnout while Dooru with 63.3 percent marked the highest in the first four hours after balloting began.

In Anantanag, 30 percent voting was recorded while during the 2002 assembly polls only seven percent of voters had exercised their franchise.

Supporters of the National Conference and the Congress clashed in Dooru constituency from where former minister Ghulam Ahmad Mir of the Congress is seeking re-election.

Reports of clashes between supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Congress have also come in from Kokernag constituency where former Congress minister Peerzada Muhammad Sayeed is seeking re-election.

In Noorabad, former PDP minister Abdul Aziz Zargar, seeking re-election, faces a tough challenge from National Conference’s Sakina Itoo, who was a minister till the National Conference lost power in Jammu and Kashmir in 2002 elections.

In the Jammu region, with over 450,000 voters and 108 candidates for the six seats at stake in Ramban, Doda and Kishtwar districts, there was massive voter interest.

Former chief minister Azad was safely placed in Bhaderwah constituency although Mohammad Aslam Goni of the National Conference is expected to give a semblance of a contest. Mujib Ali of 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.

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.

National Conference 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, a long time National Conference supporter.

Deployment of election officials in remote and far flung mountainous polling stations in Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban districts had become a big challenge amid snowfall and rains since Tuesday afternoon.

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