Overall 46% turnout in 4-phase election
8 October 2002
The Asian Age
Doda: A suicide strike by militants temporarily disrupted polling at a booth here on Tuesday but it failed to disrupt the process as such. At the end of the day, the official statistics said, 52 per cent of people had caste their votes in the militant-infested Doda district and 44 per cent in the Valley’s remaining Lolab segment. With that the four-phase polling in Jammu and Kashmir is over and the authorities heaved a sigh of relief. Chief electoral officer Pramod Jain expressed his satisfaction over the turnout despite an early morning attack on the polling booth set up at Doda’s Town Hall. He added the figure of 52 per cent might vary by a ''few more per cent'' as the presiding officers’ diaries were still awaited. He also said the overall voter turnout in the state was recorded at 46 per cent, eight per cent lesser than recorded in 1996. Mr Jain said that despite the fidayeen attack and couple of other attempts by militants to disrupt polls, the electorate came out in large numbers to vote in Doda. A total of 388,519 people were eligible to vote in the six segments of Doda, while Lolab segment of Kupwara had a total of 72,000 voters. During the previous state polls in 1996 Doda district had registered a total of 63.06 per cent turnout, while the Lolab segment had recorded a voter turnout of 42 percent. With the end of the voting on Tuesday, the four-phase election in troubled Jammu and Kashmir has reached its climax. The counting begins October 10. The voting started on September 16 when five border districts of Kashmir, including Kupwara went to the polls. The polls in Lolab segment were deferred after the September 11 assassination of the ruling National Conference candidate and state’s law minister Mushtaq Ahmed Lone. The second and third phases were held on September 24 and October 1. In all the three previous phases authorities recorded over 40 per cent turnout, and said the figures were ''more than expected.'' Mr Jain complimented the entire election machinery for successful completion of the four-phase voting in the region ravaged by 13-year old militancy. Doda is spread over 11,600 sq. km. and security forces were on their toes to make the elections a peaceful affair. The voting here decided the fate of a total of 67 candidates. The prominent candidates include minister of state for home Khalid Najib Soharwardy, BJP state chief Daya Kishan Kotwal, BSP state president Sheikh Rehman and former advocate-general Muhammad Aslam Goni. Jammu and Kashmir police chief Ashok Kumar Suri said that a total of 830 people have died in Kashmir since India announced on August 2 dates for the Assembly elections. He said of the dead 370 were militants. ''Another 260 of the victims have been innocent civilians,'' he added. He charged militants with killing around 50 political activists, including two candidates, and 150 security force personnel.