Voting progresses slowly, but steadily in Kashmir (Second Lead)

November 23rd, 2008 - 3:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Srinagar/Jammu, Nov 23 (IANS) Voting progressed at a steady clip through the day in Jammu and Kashmir Sunday with heavier turnout in the four constituencies in Jammu region than in the two segments in Kashmir valley in round two of the assembly elections.By 12 noon, 16 percent of the voters had cast their franchise in Ganderbal, where National Conference leader Omar Abdullah is contesting against 11 other candidates, and 19 percent in Kangan.

“The voting process would pick up as the day warms up and we are expecting a fairly good voter turnout in both Kangan and Ganderbal,” said a poll official in the valley, where the process got off to a sluggish start at 8 a.m. because of the morning chill.

In Jammu, the turnout was significantly higher till 12 noon. In Kalakot, it was 31 percent, in Nowshera 35 percent, in Darhal 34 percent and in Rajouri 33 percent.

No serious untoward incident was reported except clashes between supporters of National Conference (NC) and other parties at half a dozen polling stations in Darhal and Rajouri constituencies in the Jammu region.

Polling was briefly disrupted at these places, while at Badadarhal in Darhal police opened fire to disperse two stone-pelting groups of NC and other parties.

The total number of voters in the two constituencies in the Valley is 137,560 and there are 22 candidates in the fray.

A total of 142 polling stations have been set up in the Ganderbal district out of which 79 have been set up for Ganderbal and 63 for Kangan constituency.

The contesting candidates include the regional National Conference (NC) president, Omar Abdullah who is fighting elections from Ganderbal and is pitched against 11 other candidates including Qazi Muhammad Afzal of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Sheikh Muhammad Ashfaq of the Congress.

In Kangan constituency, senior Gujjar leader and former NC minister Mian Altaf Ahmad is contesting the polls against nine other candidates including Bashir Ahmad Mir of the PDP.

There are 353,457 voters in the four constituencies of Rajouri district’s difficult mountainous terrain.

Polling began here briskly in the backdrop of issues like lack of development, poor connectivity, infrastructure and communication, unemployment and poverty.

In all, 454 polling stations have been set up here. Poonch Deputy Commissioner Rafiq Khan said 96 of the balloting stations have been marked out as hyper sensitive and 181 sensitive.

“We have made arrangements for stand-by polling stations that are close to the Line of Control (LoC) in case of any eventuality. Though there is a ceasefire between India and Pakistan since 2003, we cannot take chances.”

Moulvi Jameel of Thanamandi in Rajouri district said over the phone that people were enthusiastic to vote and were quickly wrapping up their morning chores “to cast their votes early”.

He added that the call for a poll boycott by the separatists “is not going to have any effect in the Muslim majority Rajouri district”.

Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, patron of the PDP and former chief minister, believes that the nearly 70 percent voter turnout in the first phase of polling will be “a trend setter for the rest of the six phases.”

There are 59 candidates in the fray in Rajouri district. Rajouri constituency has the maximum number of candidates at 23, followed by 13 in Kalakot, 12 in Darhal and 11 in Nowshera.

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