55 per cent turnout in first phase of J-K polls

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Jammu, Nov. 17 : Braving freezing temperatures and ignoring separatists' boycott call, voters came out in large numbers with an average 55 per cent turnout recorded in the first phase of the Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir held amid unprecedented security on Monday.

The turnout was moderate to heavy and voting passed off peacefully except for stray incidents of violence and protests amid threats of militants disrupting the polls, which was held one in 10 constituencies spread over four districts of Bandipora, Poonch, Leh and Kargil. Polling in the border state has been staggered over seven phases lasting up to December 24.

Around 55 per cent polling was registered in the 10 constituencies, Divisional Commissioner Jammu Sudhanshu Pandey told reporters in Jammu.

Pandey said "Gurez constituency in the once terrorist-infested Bandipora district recorded the highest voting- 74 per cent- followed by Mendhar (65), Poonch (64), Surankote (58), Kargil (57), Nobra (55), Leh (53), Zanskar (54) and Bandipora and Sonawari (42 each)."

The separatist Co-ordination Committee had given a call for 'march to where elections are'. But the march to Bandipora, 65 km north of Srinagar town, was foiled by security forces. Zanskar, Kargil and Sonawari segments recorded poll percentage far below that of 2002 assembly polls while Bandipora registered an increase of 10 per cent in the turnout this year..

Pandey said the figures issued by him were tentative and the polling percentage might go up or down by two to three percents information from certain polling station located in remote areas of the constituencies were not received yet.

Announcing the constituency-wise poll percentage, Sharma said polling was by and large peaceful barring some minor incidents.

The polling began at 8.00 am but people came out of their homes only an hour later due to intense cold wave gripping the region.

However, polling picked up as bright sun shoe and brisk polling was witnessed in all the 10 constituencies throughout the day.

In Kargil and Leh constituencies, women voters were far more enthusiastic and had come in good numbers to exercise their franchise.

Giving details of the poll-related incidents which took place today, Pandey said five polling staff at Gursai polling station in Mendhar constituency were chargesheeted and suspended after being found guilty of violating the election commission guidelines.

The polling party of 89-Gursai polling station in Mendhar constituency, led by presiding officer Inderjeet Singh, violated the code of conduct by staying at the house of a kin of People's Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Rafiq Hussain Khan.

The polling party was replaced by the Election Commission before the polling began..

In Inderkote in Poonch district, some non-voters tried to enter into a polling station. Security personnel fired some rounds in air to disperse them, Pandey said adding there was no casualty in the incident.

The separatists have rejected the elections and had called for protests on the elections days, besides a complete strike to draw the attention of the global community towards the Kashmir issue ed on it. By Tahir Nadeem Khan

ANI

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