Srinagar, Nov 17 : Polling today began on a dull note due to severe cold in ten assembly segments in the first of seven-phase elections in Jammu and Kashmir amid unprecedented security arrangements.
Over 600,000 voters are eligible to exercise their franchise in this phase to choose 10 representatives in the most-keenly fought Assembly elections in the State's political history despite boycott call by separatists.
Key Sonawari constituency in Bandipora valley has the highest number of candidates among the 10 seats while Nobra constituency in Leh district has the least.
An official spokesman said polling began in all 1086 polling stations at 8. a.m despite biting cold.
"I feel as the day progresses, more people would come to vote. And we are here to cast our votes," said Mukhtar Ahmad, a voter. As many as, 102 candidates, are in the fray in these constituencies. These include three women contestants.
Former Deputy Speaker of the Assembly and National Conference leader Mohammad Akbar Lone, former Ministers in the PDP-Congress coalition government -- Usman Majid and Nawang Rigzin Jora, sitting Lok Sabha member Thupstan Chhewang and member of the state Legislative Council and PDP leader Nizamuddin Bhat are among the 102 candidates whose electoral fortunes will be decided in the first round of polling.
Lone defeated Parray by over 12,700 votes in the last Assembly elections held in 2002.
In Leh constituency, five candidates are fighting each other, while the neighbouring Nobra segment is witnessing a four-cornered contest.
In Kargil district, both Kargil and Zanskar seats have five candidates in the fray.
In Poonch, 36 candidates will be vying with each other for the three seats - Surankote, Mendhar and Poonch-Haveli.
The lowest voters numbering five are at the polling station at Thukjay Gumpa in Leh.
The polling is progressing smooth in spite of the Coordination Committee representing separatists has asking people to observe complete shutdown today as a mark of protest against elections.