March 1998 News

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Blasts Fail to Disrupt Polls

SRINAGAR, March 7 1998 (HT Correspondent)

Militants made abortive attempts to disrupt polls by throwing grenades and exploding landmines in two parliamentary constituencies of Anantnag and Baramulla where more than 40 per cent of over 16 lakh voters exercised their franchise on Saturday.

Baramulla constituency where among others Union Environment Minister Saif-ud-Din Soz is contesting recorded polling between 40 to 45 per cent. Anantnag recorded between 30 to 35 per cent of voters turnout.

Chief Electoral Officer S. V. Bhave said that the percentage of voters turnout could go up as the polling details were yet to fully come in.

On the incidents of violence P. S. Gill, Inspector General of Police said that there were six minor incidents of explosions. But overall polling was peaceful. He declared that the "Pakistan's designs to disrupt the polls have been successfully foiled".

The polling which had a very slow start in both the constituencies, picked up later in the day. The authorities said that they were satisfied with the moderate voters turnout despite the violent campaign of militants and sub-zero temperature throughout the Valley.

Udhampur parliamentary constituency which was scheduled to go to polls with Anantnag and Baramulla today, will now go to polls on March 18.

The polling for Jammu was held on Feb. 16, Srinagar on Feb. 28 and Leh constituency will go to polls on June 21.

A grenade was thrown at a polling booth in Hogam-Nowshera in Bijbehra segment of Anantnag parliamentary constituency. Three policemen were injured in the incident.

Another grenade was hurled by militants on a police party in Kokkernag and a landmine exploded in Tral. But no one was injured in the incident. In Pattan, a landmine exploded in the government higher secondary school premises. A similar explosion took place on Bandipore road. However there was no report of any casualty.

Polling trends revealed that the border belt of Baramulla reflected greater enthusiasm among voters than that of interior parts of Baramulla district like Baramulla and Sopore towns.

Anantnag overall recorded a lower voting percentage than Baramulla. There were many areas where voters did not come out because of heavy snow. There was greater percentage of polling elsewhere.

It appeared to be a voluntary exercise as the voters lined outside the polling booths told reporters that they had come on their own to vote. "We want our representatives in Parliament who can address our problems", said Mohammad Ganai in Pattan.

Most of the voters were aware of the poll boycott call by the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), but they wanted to have their say in Parliament and that was possible only through elections. Some of them were quite categorical in stating that the terrorism has yielded nothing to them, while others adopted a cautious attitude and stated that they were in agreement with APHC that Kashmir was a "disputed issue" but more important was "Jobs for their children".

Today's polling will decide the fate of 40 candidates including Environment Minister Saif-ud-Din Soz, Union Minister of State for Home Mohammad Maqbool Dar and former Union Home Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.

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