Another Phase Of Huge Turnout: 72.1 Pc Vote In 18 Segments

2 December 2014
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: Like the first phase, Phase-II of Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir spread over 18 Assembly constituencies witnessed heavy turnout of 72.1 per cent surpassing the record of previous Assembly and Lok Sabha elections as voting in several polling stations continued beyond stipulated time of 4 pm in peaceful and violence free atmosphere barring stray incidents of clashes in Poonch and Reasi districts. Five workers of different political parties were injured in the border district of Poonch while the BSF had to fire few shots in air at Dhakikot in Gulabgarh Assembly segment of Reasi district to control unruly mob, which wanted to poll at a particular polling station. However, situation was controlled after the firing and polling resumed after sometime. All polling stations located close to the Line of Control (LoC) in border districts of Poonch and Kupwara reported brisk turnout without any fear as long queues of voters were seen at almost all polling stations along the LoC in Mendhar and Poonch constituencies in Jammu and Karnah and Lolab segments in Kashmir. No polling station had to be relocated anywhere on the LoC as Pakistan Army didn't resort to any mischief. Administration had made Contingency Plan for relocation of polling booths falling within the firing range of Pakistan Army but it was not put to use as polling went on peacefully in all polling stations along the LoC. DIG Udhampur-Reasi range Gareeb Dass, under whose jurisdiction six out of nine Assembly constituencies of Jammu region went to polls today, said the polling was completely peaceful in all segments barring an incident of firing at Dhakikot in Gulabgarh. No complaint of coercion, bogus voting, militancy or crime was reported during the polling, he added. Official sources told the Excelsior that highest turnout of 82.4 per cent was recorded in Gulabgarh Assembly segment of Reasi district while lowest voting percentage of 36.5 was reported from Homeshalibugh in Kulgam district. Of three districts of Jammu region, which went to polls in second phase today, Reasi recorded poll percentage of 81.1, Udhampur 76.8 and Poonch 75.8. The polling percentage in 18 Assembly constituencies-nine each in Jammu and Kashmir regions-was about 3.4 per cent more than 2008 Assembly elections and 11.1 per cent above than April-May 2014 Lok Sabha polls. All three Assembly segments of Reasi district recorded above 80 per cent voting. Assembly segment wise voting percentage in 18 constituencies included Reasi 80.62, Gool-Arnas (81.05), Gulabgarh (82.4), all in Reasi district, Udhampur (79.74), Chenani (75.48) and Ramnagar (75.19), all in Udhampur district, Surankot (74.67), Mendhar (75.42) and Poonch-Haveli (75.16), all in Poonch district, Karnah (75), Handwara and Langet (71), Kupwara (62) and Lolab (55), all in Kupwara district, Kulgam (55.44), Noorabad (77.60), Homeshalibugh (36.50) and Devsar (60.03), all in Kulgam district. Polling in Gulabgarh Assembly segment, where highest turnout of 82.4 per cent was recorded, was completely peaceful, Sub Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Gulabgarh, Ashwani Sharma said. Fate of 175 candidates including four Ministers and some former Ministers, sitting legislators, separatist Sajjad Lone and several influential Independent candidates was sealed in the EVMs today after the polling. The EVMs will be opened on December 23, the day of counting for all 87 Assembly constituencies. Enthusiasm among the voters can be well gauged from the turnout in the border district of Poonch, which had been witness to frequent ceasefire violations and skirmishes on the LoC. In Mendhar Assembly segment, 60951 votes were polled from out of a total of 80819 while in Poonch-Haveli, 74963 electorates exercised their right to franchise from a total of 99734. In Surankote 63691 votes were polled from 85295. In Reasi district, 87003 votes were cast for Reasi constituency from 1,07,916 while 56003 votes were polled in Gulabgarh out of 68307 and 50011 electorates turned up for voting in Gool-Arnas out of a total of 61361. In Udhampur district, 84458 votes were polled out of 1,05,923 in Udhampur segment, 65845 votes were cast out of 87239 in Chenani and 81207 in Ramnagar out of 1,08,007 in Ramnagar. Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Umang Narula, who personally monitored the polling process in all 18 Assembly segments during the day today, told newspersons in the evening that voting for second phase of elections was completely peaceful and no major untoward incident was reported from anywhere. Replying to a question, he said voting all along the LoC went off smoothly and no relocation of any booth was required though the Election Commission had put the Contingency Plan in force. Narula said a total of 15.42 lakh electorates and 6142 Service electorates were eligible for today's polling for 175 candidates including eight women. The Commission had set up 2181 polling stations, 143 of which had been declared as critical. 'The Election Commission had deployed 18 General Observers, five Expenditure Observers, four Police Observers, one Awareness Observer and 199 Micro Observers for today's polling especially to monitor voting in critical and hyper sensitive booths,' Narula said, adding there were 10296 polling personnel on duty. The Commission monitored voting in some of the polling stations by installing 296 digital cameras, 216 video cameras and web casting in 178 polling stations. At about 10.30 am, trouble erupted at Dhakikot polling station in Gulabgarh constituency, falling under the jurisdiction of Arnas police station when a large number of Gujjars wanted to cast their votes at Dhakikot enmass though they were migrants and their polling station was the different. Despite repeated persuasions by the Presiding Officer that they had to cast the vote at different polling station, the Gujjars refused to budge and tried to storm inside the polling station. DIG Udhampur-Doda range Gareeb Dass said the BSF ASI on duty fired few shots in air to scar the unruly mob and ensure uninterrupted polling. After firing, the crowd dispersed but polling remained suspended at Dhakot for about one and a half hours. The polling later resumed there and continued till 6 pm. The PDP and BJP workers clashes at Government Middle School polling station in Purani Poonch after the BJP workers alleged that the PDP polling agents were indulging in bogus voting. In the clash, two BJP workers-Gurjot Singh and Sumit Kumar, both residents of Poonch were injured after they were hit with fits and blows by the PDP workers. They were admitted to District Hospital, Poonch. A large number of people gathered outside the District Hospital, Poonch and shouted slogans against the authorities for not lodging an FIR against the accused. National Conference workers beat up two PDP polling agents at Mendhar in Poonch district in polling stations No. 43 and 34. The injured PDP workers have been identified as Sarwar Khan and Mohammad Qayoom, both of whom have been hospitalized. An NC worker Habib-ur-Rehman was injured in a clash with PDP worker at Khokhran in Mendhar, NC workers went on rampage at Draba in Bafliaz area of Surankote Assembly segment in Poonch district and broke an Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) alleging bogus voting by the Congress workers. Authorities immediately replace the EVM. An 80 years old civilian Shah Mohammad son of Faqir Mohammad, a resident of village Harmutta in Gursai area of Poonch district suffered massive heart attack and died immediately after casting his vote at Harmutta polling station. His burial will be performed tomorrow. Meanwhile, CEO Umang Narula said the Election Commission had deployed 61 teams of Flying Squads which seized Rs 16.33 lakh cash and a large quantity of liquor in Poonch, Udhampur and Reasi districts during second phase of campaigning. He added that five cases of paid news have also been reported in the second phase. He said eight EVMs had to be replaced today due to technical fault including four in Kulgam district, three in Reasi and one in Poonch. He said 400 new booths had been created in the Assembly elections after April-May Lok Sabha elections and there was no demand from anywhere for creation of additional polling station. As per Election Commission's guidelines, a polling booth had to be created for 1400 electorates, the ratio was far less in Jammu and Kashmir. He admitted that some polling stations had to be shifted due to minor law order problem, rains and objections by the private land owners but that was the routine case. In response to a question of poll boycott, he admitted that there was zero turnout in couple of polling stations. To another question, Narula admitted that few incidents of stone pelting caused low turnout in some segments of the Kashmir Valley but said the percentage was better than the Lok Sabha elections and at par with last Assembly polls. He said there was no impact of Army-militant encounter on the polling in Kupwara district. Five militants were killed in the gun battle. Narula said Contingency Plan was in place for Phase-IV and V polling in Jammu when polling stations along the International border would go to vote. Among the prominent candidates, whose fate was sealed in the EVMs today, there were four Ministers including Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution Choudhary Mohammed Ramzan (Handwara), Social Welfare Minister Sakina Itoo (Noorabad), Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mir Saifullah (Kupwara) and Minister of State for Revenue Aijaz Khan (Gool Arnas). Separatist leader Sajjad Lone, who has sided with the BJP, was in the fray from the Handwara Assembly constituency. Lone, who joined mainstream politics by contesting 2009 Lok Sabha polls, is making his debut in the Assembly polls. BJP has not fielded candidate in Handwara. Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Sartaj Madni (Devsar) and Deputy Chairman of the Legislative Council Javed Rana (Mendhar) are also in the fray in the second phase. All but two sitting MLAs were seeking re-election in the second phase. While Chaudhary Mohammad Aslam (Congress), who won in 2008 from Surankote, passed away this year, PDP has not fielded Sardar Rafiq Khan from Mendhar in view of his ill health and replaced him with Mohammad Mahroof Khan. Congress has fielded Aslam's son-Choudhary Akram from Surankote. Sakina Itoo was the only woman only woman minister in National Conference-led coalition Government, who was seeking reelection from Noorabad. Former ministers who are trying their luck were Harshdev Singh (Ramnagar), Abdul Gani Malik (Gulabgarh), Jugal Kishore and Jagjivan Lal (Reasi), Mushtaq Ahmed Bukhari (Surankot), Nissar Khan (Mendhar) and Abdul Gaffar Sofi (Homeshalibugh). Deputy Speaker Sartaj Madni (PDP) was in fray from Devsar while Legislative Council Deputy Chairman Javed Rana (NC) was in the race from Mendhar seat. Polling for the 87-member seat is being held in five phases. The third phase of voting will be held on December 9, fourth phase on December 14 and fifth on December 20. Counting of votes will be held on December 23.