Kashmiris vote despite boycott call: Govt. claims high voter turnout
Srinagar: People braved a separatist boycott call and inclement weather to cast their ballots in the second phase of Jammu and Kashmir assembly elections Tuesday.
The army foiled an infiltration bid on the Line of Control (LoC) in Kupwara district Tuesday morning, on a day when voters of this border district were queueing up at polling booths.
An official said a group of five to eight heavily armed guerrillas made an infiltration bid in Nowgam area of the LoC. Three militants were killed in a gunfight between the security forces and the infiltrators.
At Kupwara town, barely 40 km from the site of the gunfight, voters stood in long lines to cast their franchise. People were calm and waited patiently for their turn to vote. Accompanying children played cricket at a polling station, unperturbed by the militant firing.
An average of 32.08 percent of the electorate cast its vote in the first four hours of polling across 18 constituencies of the 87-member assembly that went to the polls Tuesday.
The highest voter turnout of 44 percent was recorded in the Gool Arnas constituency, while the lowest of around 11 percent was witnessed in Homeshallibugh.
The separatists gave a shutdown call as well as a call to boycott the polls. While businesses were closed at most places, voters defied the boycott call.
The weather also improved as the day progressed and a cold morning gave way to a bright sunny day.
Men and women lined up in all the five polling stations in Handwara town. Many of the voters said they were voting for change that would bring employment, better healthcare facilities, roads, and schools.
“I have come out to vote for change. I have no reservations in admitting that remaining out from voting in the past has compounded our day-to-day problems,” Abdul Majeed told IANS. The 45-year-old voted at the Girls’ Higher Secondary School polling station in the town.
In the neighbouring Langate constituency also, voters queued up in Kargama, Langate and other polling stations. Most of them said they want change for development and a better tomorrow.
“Nobody did anything for us in the past. We have decided to change the beneficiaries of our democratic rights. Let us see what happens,” said Bashir Ahmad, 48, at Kargana polling station.
“The urge to bring in change for the better is making me stand in this long queue,” he told IANS.
Voters in Udhampur, Chenani, Ramnagar and Reasi constituencies in the Jammu region turned up in large numbers to vote.
In the Kashmir Valley, the turnout was low in the initial hour due to the winter cold, but it gained momentum as the day progressed.
Voters could not come out in large numbers in south Kashmir’s Devsar, Homeshallibugh, Noorabad and Kulgam constituencies initially. In the north Kashmir Kupwara district also, where polling has begun for five constituencies, the voter turnout was low in the morning.
Over 1.5 million voters will get to decide the political fate of 175 candidates in the fray. Polling started at 8 a.m. and will end at 4 p.m.
Balloting began Tuesday in 18 assembly constituencies in the second of the five-phase elections in Jammu and Kashmir, officials said.
The Election Commission has set up 2,181 polling stations for this phase.
Nine of the constituencies are in Jammu region — three each in Udhampur, Reasi and Poonch districts, while the remaining nine are in the valley — four in Kulgam district and five in Kupwara district.
The first phase of polling Nov 25 saw 70 percent voter turnout.