J&K Polls: Voting Low Key In Valley, Brisk In Jammu
22 November 2008
: Voting was underway in the two constituencies of Ganderbal and Kangan in the Kashmir Valley and four in the Jammu region amidst tight security early Sunday in the second phase of the seven-phase State Assembly elections. As balloting began at 8 a.m., voters were seen in small numbers outside polling stations in the Kashmir Valley because of the cold weather and morning chill. A poll official in the Valley told IANS that, 'the voting process would pick up as the day warms up and we are expecting a fairly good voter turnout in both Kangan and Ganderbal'. In contrast Jammu's Rajouri district saw enthusiastic voters queuing up at the polling stations in all the four constituencies, Nowshera, Rajouri, Darhal and Kalakot. The total number of voters in the two constituencies in the Valley is 1,37,560 and there are 22 candidates in the fray. A total of 142 polling stations have been set up in the Ganderbal district out of which 79 have been set up for Ganderbal and 63 for Kangan constituency. The candidates include the regional National Conference (NC) president, Omar Abdullah who is fighting elections from Ganderbal and is pitched against 11 other candidates including Qazi Muhammad Afzal of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) and Sheikh Muhammad Ashfaq of the Congress. In Kangan constituency, senior Gujjar leader and former NC minister Mian Altaf Ahmad is contesting the polls against nine other candidates including Bashir Ahmad Mir of the PDP. There are 3,53,457 voters in the four constituencies of Rajouri district's difficult mountainous terrain. Polling began in Kangan briskly in the backdrop of issues like lack of development, poor connectivity, infrastructure and communication, unemployment and poverty. In all, 454 polling stations have been set up here. Poonch Deputy Commissioner Rafiq Khan said 96 of the balloting stations have been marked out as hyper sensitive and 181 sensitive. 'We have made arrangements for stand-by polling stations that are close to the Line of Control (LoC) in case of any eventuality. Though there is a ceasefire between India and Pakistan since 2003, we cannot take chances.' Moulvi Jameel of Thanamandi in Rajouri district said over the phone that people were enthusiastic to vote and were quickly wrapping up their morning chores 'to cast their votes early'. He added that the call for a poll boycott by the separatists 'is not going to have any effect in the Muslim majority Rajouri district'. Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, patron of the PDP and former Chief Minister, believes that the nearly 70 per cent voter turnout in the first phase of polling will be 'a trend setter for the rest of the six phases.' There are 59 candidates in the fray in Rajouri district. Rajouri constituency has the maximum number of candidates at 23, followed by 13 in Kalakot, 12 in Darhal and 11 in Nowshera.