Braving All Odds 49% Voting In Jammu And Kashmir

14 December 2014

Srinagar: Defying separatists' boycott call and chilly weather, voters came out in good numbers on Sunday to record a 49% turnout in the fourth and penultimate phase of Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections that involved 18 seats. The polling in the four districts-Srinagar, Anantnag, Shopian(all in Valley) and Samba(Jammu region) was four% higher than that in the 2008 Assembly elections but it was lower compared to the average 71% in the first two phases and 59% in the third phase. Although the polling was by and large peaceful in all the districts, several incidents of clashes between supporters of rival political parties and alleged high handedness by two BJP candidates-Javed Ahmad Qadri(Shopian) and Hina Bhat (Amirakadal) were reported in the Valley. 'An estimated 49% of over 14.73 lakh voters exercised their franchise in the penultimate phase of the five-phased assembly elections,' Chief Electoral Officer Umang Narula told reporters here. The 18 assembly segments had recorded 45% polling in the 2008 Assembly polls and 29% in the Lok Sabha elections held earlier this year, he said. Deputy Election Commissioner Vinod Zutshi told reporters in Delhi that barring a few stray incidents, polling in the state was peaceful. A FIR has been lodged after an election agent of an Independent alleged that he was manhandled by a BJP candidate in Shopian district, he said. All the eight constituencies of Srinagar district together registered an increase in the voter turn out-28%- which was 6% more compared to that in 2008 assembly election. It was a mere 10.71% for these constituencies in the recent Lok Sabha elections. It was 66.6% in the Assembly polls in 1987, 19.24% in 1996, 11.17% in 2002 and 21.93% in 2008, according to official data. Anantnag and Shopian districts of south Kashmir witnessed a slight dip in overall poll percentage compared to 2008 polls, recording 61 and 50%, respectively. Anantnag had recorded 63.20% in 2008, while Shopian had registered 50.65% polling. With the completion of the fourth phase, the voting in 67 out of 87 assembly constituencies was completed and it is over in the Valley. Voting in the remaining 20 assembly seats spread over three districts of Jammu region will be held on December 20, while counting of votes will be taken up on December 23. Giving break-up of the polling, Narula said Samba district in Jammu region recorded the highest 80.10% as against 77.90% in 2008. Narula said Vijaypur constituency in Samba district registered the highest turnout of 81.17% while Habbakadal constituency in Srinagar witnessed the lowest at 21.01%. Despite severe cold, long queues of voters were seen outside the polling stations to exercise their franchise at many polling stations throughout the day. Sonawar constituency, where Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is contesting from a second seat, witnessed the highest 44.17% turnout in Srinagar against 39.61% in 2008. Besides Omar, the other key candidates in the fray are PDP patron and former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed who is contesting from Anantnag constituency.