Saturday, December 20, 2014 | UPDATED 17:24 IST
Voting picks up in J&KA security personnel keeps vigil at a polling station during the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections, in Jammu on Saturday. PTI
Assembly polls

Voting picks up in J&K

Over 55 pc cast vote till 2 pm20 Dec 2014 | 5:13 PM

JAMMU: Undeterred by the threat of firing from across the border and braving the winter chill, over 55 per cent of the electorate today exercised their franchise till 2 pm in 20 constituencies of Jammu’s border region in the fifth and final phase of Jammu and Kashmir Assembly polls.

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Jammu, December 20

Undeterred by the threat of firing from across the border and braving the winter chill, over 55 per cent of the electorate today exercised their franchise till 2 pm in 20 constituencies of Jammu’s border region in the fifth and final phase of Jammu and Kashmir Assembly polls.

Rural areas witnessed more voter turnout till 2 pm than the urban areas of the city.

“As many as 55.29 per cent of voting has been registered till 2 pm in 20 segments of Jammu, Kathua and Rajouri districts”, an official spokesman said.

At many places, voters queued up at polling stations much before the start of the voting time at 8 am.

Despite cold weather, serpentine queues of people were seen outside the polling booths.

Union Minister Jitendra Singh, who stood in a queue for over half an hour here, exercised his right of franchise and thanked the people for coming out in large numbers to vote.

“I thank the people who are coming out in large numbers to vote. It is a victory for democracy and defeat of all other forces against the democratic process,” he told reporters at a polling station in Gandhinagar.

Speaking to the media, District Electoral Officer, Jammu, Ajeet Kumar Sahu said polling is going on peacefully and no untoward incident was reported from anywhere.

“People are coming out in large numbers to vote amid tight security arrangements. Over 200 security companies have been deployed. We hope for a large turnout today”, Sahu said.

Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand and four of his cabinet colleagues are among 312 candidates whose fate will be decided today.

Giving details, elections officials said while Marh constituency in Jammu district witnessed the highest 65.44 per cent of voters casting their ballot, Gandhinagar segment in heart of Jammu city registered lowest 41.42 per cent voting.

R S Pura border constituency saw 61.74 per cent of the electorate exercising their franchise, Nagorta 56 per cent while Raipur Domana saw over 59.20 per cent voters casting their ballot, Chhamb with 56 per cent and Suchetgarh polled 57 per cent polling.

Similarly, Bani registered 61.35 per cent, Hiranagar registered 55.56 per cent voting, Bishnah 54 per cent, Jammu East 46 per cent, Kathua 55.83 per cent, Basholi 52.60 per cent, Billawar 58.54 and Jammu West polled 56 per cent votes.

Besides these, Noushera polled 55.09 per cent votes followed by 60.84 per cent polling in Darhal and 50.52 per cent in Kalakote, Rajouri 54 and Akhnoor polled 62 per cent votes.

After a record turnout of voters in the previous four phases, particularly in Kashmir Valley, there is an expectation of high voter turnout in the seats spread across Jammu, Kathua and Rajouri districts of Jammu region.

As many as 213 candidates, including the Deputy Chief Minister, ministers Sham Lal Sharma, Raman Bhalla, Manohar Lal Sharma, Ajay Sadhotra, former MP and Ministers Lal Singh and Talib Hussain (both BJP) are in the fray.

As many as 18,28,904 eligible voters, comprising 9,59,011 men and 8,69,891 women, are eligible to exercise their franchise at 2,366 polling stations set up across the three border districts.

BJP has high stakes in this phase as it had got 10 seats in 2008 Assembly elections followed by Congress with 5 seats, NC 2, PDP 1 and two seats going to Independents.

Divisional Commissioner Jammu Shant Manu said 400 security companies (40,000 security men) have been deployed for today’s polling apart from regular deployment of police forces.

Security arrangements along the Indo-Pak border have been strengthened in the three border districts of Jammu region with troops put on alert for the polls.

“Security grid along the Indo-Pak border has been put on alert. Multi-tier security has been put in place”, the Divisional Commissioner said.

Deputy Chief Minister and Congress candidate Tara Chand, who won the Chhamb seat in Jammu in 1996, 2002 and 2008, is fighting to retain the seat this time again.

Besides, Congress candidate from Akhnoor and Minister Sham Lal Sharma is looking at scoring a hat-trick.

Another Congress Minister Raman Bhalla is also looking at repeating his victory of 2002 and 2008 in Gandhi Nagar seat.

Congress Minister Manohar Lal Sharma is engaged in a direct fight with BJP at Billawar in Kathua district.While PDP has fielded six sitting MLAs including Wani, it has nominated fresh faces in the three constituencies.

Sitting minister of National Conference Ajay Sadhotra will take on BJP in Marh Assembly segment.

Besides, two-time MP and former minister Lal Singh, who switched sides from Congress to BJP, is contesting from Basholi seat. Similarly, former NC MP Talib Hussain is trying his luck on a BJP ticket from Rajouri segment.

NC candidate for Nagrota Devender Singh Rana, who is close to Omar Abdullah, will face his maiden contest. — PTI

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