Huge 70.6 Pc Turnout In Jammu-Poonch LS Seat

10 April 2014
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: Jammu-Poonch Parliamentary seat today recorded a huge turnout of about 70.6 per cent with Samba district accounting for highest 75 per cent as first phase of polling in Jammu and Kashmir in which lone Lok Sabha seat of Jammu went to polls passed off peacefully. The Jammu seat witnessed a jump of nearly 21 per cent in the voting as compared to 2009 Lok Sabha elections when only 49.71 electorates had exercised their right to franchise. According to data compiled on the basis of turnout in 20 Assembly segments of four districts Jammu, Samba, Rajouri and Poonch, which comprised Jammu-Poonch Lok Sabha seat, out of a total of 18,48,553 voters, 13,05,078 were cast. The fate of 19 contestants in the fray for Jammu-Poonch seat was locked in the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), which would be opened on May 16, the day of counting of votes countrywide. Prominent contestants included Jugal Kishore Sharma (BJP), Madan Lal Sharma, two times MP from the constituency (Congress), Yash Pal Sharma (PDP) and Ashok Bhagat (BSP). Official sources told the Excelsior that Samba district accounted for 75.2 per cent voting followed by Jammu with 73.5 per cent, Poonch 64.4 per cent and Rajouri 64.3 per cent. Marh Assembly segment in Jammu district recorded highest turnout 80 per cent while Surankote in Poonch district accounted for lowest voting percentage of 59.99 per cent. Out of total votes of 9,89,489 in 11 Assembly segments of Jammu district, 7,60,282 were cast while in two Assembly constituencies of Samba district in the total of 1,84,392 electorates, 1,38,754 votes were polled. In four Assembly segments of Rajouri district, 2,40,417 votes were polled in a total of 3,73,708 while in Poonch district, which has three Assembly constituencies, 1,65,989 votes were cast in the total of 2,55,368. In Jammu and Samba districts, 8,99,036 people exercised their right to franchise while in twin border districts of Poonch and Rajouri, 4,06,406 people turned up for voting. Assembly segment wise percentage was tonight worked out as Samba (73.99), Vijaypur (76.21), Nagrota (74.92), Gandhi Nagar (66.30), Jammu East (64.35), Jammu West (64.23), Bishnah (74.92), RS Pura (76.10), Suchetgarh (75.92), Marh (80), Raipur Domana (75.11), Akhnoor (79.62) and Chhamb (77.21), all in Samba and Jammu districts, Nowshera (73.15), Darhal (62.12), Rajouri (60.75) and Kalakote (61.65), all in Rajouri district and Surankote (59.99), Mendhar (65.49) and Poonch Haveli (70.08), all in Poonch district. In Rajouri Assembly segment, 66389 votes were polled in a total of 1,09,277 while in Nowshera, 67,386 votes were polled from out of a total of 92,126. In Darhal segment, 55,964 votes were polls from a total of 90097 while in Kalakote 50678 votes were cast in a total of 82,208. In Samba, 58, 971 votes were cast in a total of 79,699 while in Vijaypur Assembly segment of Samba district, 79,783 votes were polled in a total of 1,04,693. In Jammu district, 56014 votes were polled in Nagrota Assembly segment, 1,07,703 in Gandhi Nagar, 38,128 in Jammu East, 96,395 in Jammu West, 69,756 in Bishnah, 62,559 in RS Pura, 52,896 in Suchetgarh, 58,093 in Marh, 72,660 in Domana, 73,656 in Akhnoor and 62,966 in Chhamb. The figures are tentatively. In Poonch district, 48,872 votes were cast in Surankote Assembly segment, 50424 in Mendhar and 65738 in Poonch Main. There could be slight variation in voting percentage and votes cast as reports from some of the areas was pouring in. However, according to sources, the variation could be very minor. There could be a very minor calculation error in the figures as complete report would be available tomorrow morning, sources said but added that segment wise error could be in range of 1000 to 2000 votes. A complete chaos prevailed at MAM College, Jammu tonight when the polling staff turned up for depositing Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) from different polling stations. 'There was complete chaos due to mismanagement by the authorities as no proper arrangements had been made for depositing the EVMs,' the polling staff said. At Smailpur polling station in Samba district, the people protested against change of their polling station. DGP Ashok Prasad visited various polling stations in Samba district including Smailpur, Kaili Mandi, Vijaypur Chowk among others to see the arrangements and review law and order situation. SSP Samba Anil Magotra accompanied him. Sources said situation on International Border in Samba and Jammu district and Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch and Rajouri districts remained completely peaceful during the polling. No polling station had to be changed to safer areas in view of peace on the borders though a Contingency Plan was in place by the authorities. Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare and Congress candidate for Udhampur-Doda seat, Ghulam Nabi Azad cast his vote at Delhi Public School (DPS) at Shaheedhi Chowk, Jammu but not before facing embarrassment as he had not kept his identity card with him and was also carrying voter slip without photograph. Azad, who is contesting for the first time from Jammu and Kashmir, was up for a surprise as he was asked by a polling officer here to prove his identity to cast vote after the senior Congress leader failed to furnish his voter card. The minister exercised his franchise after a local Congress leader came to his rescue and stood as guarantor for him. Flanked by some Congress leaders, Azad, who asked for his ballot at DPS school here was asked by the Presiding Officer to produce the voter's identity card or valid identity proof, a senior official said. The officer, however, made it clear to Azad that he knew him by face but needed to be sure of his being a registered voter at the polling station, he said adding officer acted as per the EC rules. As the Union Minister failed to produce his photo identity card or the EPIC, Congress candidate Madan Lal Sharma stood as surety for Azad's identity. The polling agents of other parties including BJP did not object to Azad's exercising his franchising, who later cast his vote. Later, when reporters asked Azad about the incident, he said: 'there are tough measures taken by the Election Commission of India (ECI) this time to ensure free and fair polling. Such strong measures were not seen in the past'. Azad is trying his luck from Udhampur Lok Sabha seat. Azad's rival at Udhampur-Doda seat and BJP candidate Dr Jitendera Singh cast his vote at Government High School, Gandhi Nagar this morning. BJP candidate on Jammu-Poonch seat, Jugal Kishore Sharma cast his vote at Kishenpur Manwal in Nagrota Assembly segment, which he has been representing for past two terms while his Congress rival and two times MP from Jammu-Poonch Madan Lal Sharma polled his vote at his native village of Palatan in Chhamb Assembly segment. PDP candidate Yash Pal Sharma cast his vote at Poonch town. In sensitive border district of Rajouri, where a mystery car was seized yesterday ahead of the polling, the voting passed off peacefully barring a stray incident of clash between PDP and Congress workers at Kot Dhara near Rajouri, falling in Darhal Assembly segment. 'The polling was completely peaceful in all four Assembly segments of Rajouri district including the areas bordering the Line of Control (LoC). No untoward incident was reported from any part of the district,' SSP Rajouri Mubassir Latifi said. In border district of Samba, the polling was held amidst tight security arrangements in the areas falling close to the International Border in the wake of March 28 terror attack. SSP Samba Anil Magotra said the polling went on peacefully. Not a single vote was cost from out of 4970 electorates in five polling stations of Mandi, Baila, Trichul, Marnote and Rajpora in Mandi area of Poonch district as the villagers had announced complete boycott of the elections for linking their villages with Surankote Assembly segment contrary to previous position when they were part of Poonch Haveli Assembly constituency. Deputy Commissioner, Poonch Saajid Ahmed Khan and Chief Education Officer Abdul Hamid Fani made repeated attempts to persuade the people to cast their votes but to no avail. Late in the afternoon only 63 votes were cast from a total of 935 in Rajpora polling station. Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Umang Narula told a press conference that 68 per cent polling was recorded in Jammu-Poonch parliamentary seat. He added that the percentage was likely to go up as reports from some of the areas were pouring in. He said 70 per cent voting was recorded in Jammu and 75 per cent in Samba while reports were yet to come from twin border districts of Rajouri and Poonch. Mr Narula said the poll percentage in 2009 Lok Sabha elections was 49.71 per cent. The CEO said the voting passed off peacefully with no untoward incident reported from any part of the constituency. He added that no complaint of any major irregularity, bogus voting etc was reported to him by any candidate during the day. Mr Narula said a total of 7 EVMs had to be replaced due to technical snag. Reports said the PDP and Congress workers clashed at Gursai-A (97) polling station in Mendhar when the Congress-NC workers tried to capture the polling station but the PDP resisted the attempt. Polling was suspended for about two hours in the polling station as both sides used lathis and pelted stones on each other till para-military and police personnel controlled the situation, leading to resumption of voting. The injured have been identified as PDP worker Zakir Hussain, who has been hospitalized. Gulfaraz Ahmed, Sarfaraz Ahmed and Nazim Ahmed Khan of NC and Congress also sustained minor injuries in the clash. Minor incidents of scuffle were also reported from Kalaban, Mankote, Pathana Peer and Gulat-B polling stations in Mendhar when PDP and NC-Congress workers had a scuffle. However, para-military and police personnel defused the tension. In Kot Dhara polling station of Darhal Assembly segment in Rajouri district, the PDP and Congress workers clashed over bogus voting, leading to suspension of polling for sometime but police action resulted into resumption of polling within an hour. At Topa, Darhal, the people pelted stones at Darhal Government higher secondary school alleging that a local police official was delaying the polling. Situation was, however, brought under control by the cops. A police constable Shiv Kumar of Jammu, who was on poll duty was injured at Harmoote, Mendhar when a police vehicle fell into a gorge, His legs were fracture seriously. A 101 years old Ilam Din and 103 years old blind Noor Mohammad cast their votes at Khanetar-I and Khanetar-3 polling stations. Mr Narula said Jammu-Poonch Parliamentary seat was largest in Jammu and Kashmir with highest number of 18,48,553 electorate including 9,77,328 male and 8,71,212 females. He said 2274 polling stations had been set up in 1582 locations in the constituency, of which 68 stations were critical. A total of 2274 EVMs were used for the voting. He said five Observers and 201 micro observers kept a strict vigil on the elections to ensure free and fair polling. The CEO said a total of 10,000 polling staff was on duty for the elections. About a question on the factors responsible for such a large turnout in the elections, Mr Narula said the Election Commission had made a lot of efforts to aware the electorates including targeting the young voters in the age of 18 to 19. He admitted that social media also played a good role in voter turnout. He added that the Election Commission used media both print and electronic, SMS service, mobile phones etc to aware the voters of their right to franchise. Such was the large outcome in the elections that at several polling stations in Jammu and Samba districts including both urban and rural belts, the polling continued even after scheduled time of 6 pm. Under the Election Commission guidelines, the people, who had entered the polling station at 6 pm, could cast their votes. At a number of polling stations, the voting continued till 7 pm. Voters had started queuing up even before scheduled time of 7 am. Several morning walkers waited outside the polling stations for the voting to start to cast their votes. The people hailed the Election Commission were extending voting time by two hours from 7 am to 6 pm as against the previous timings of 8 am to 5 pm. There was massive enthusiasm among the young and first time voters both boys and girls, who queued up at various polling stations to exercise their right to franchise for the first time. The CEO, at his press conference, was not sure as to whether this was record percentage in Jammu-Poonch seat. He said he would have to study the previous records. Some political observers said they have not seen such a huge turnout in the Parliamentary elections, which they attributed to the Election Commission's efforts to ensure good turnout and a wind of change blowing in most parts of the country. Very few complaints of missing names in the voter lists or wrong names were noticed in the polling stations this time as compared to the previous elections. However, some complaints did surface but most of them were resolved on spot.