Kashmir fourth phase turnout dips to less than 50 percent

Jammu/Srinagar: The fourth phase of the Jammu and Kashmir assembly election Sunday saw less than half of the over 14 lakh voters turning out as against the over 70 percent seen in the earlier rounds. Voting was mostly peaceful though stray incidents of violence were reported and a case was slapped against a BJP candidate for assaulting a poll agent.

In the 18 constituencies with 14.66 lakh-strong electorate, seven saw less than one-third of the voters turning up. The constituencies were spread over four districts - Srinagar, Anantnag and Shopian in the Kashmir valley and Samba district in Jammu region.

State chief electoral officer Umang Narula said the 50 percent turnout announced at closing of polls as per initial estimates had now been revised to 49 with the final figures received. The highest turnout was seen in Vijaypur with 81.17 percent, while the lowest was in Habbakadal with 21.01, Narula said. He said a first information report (FIR) was registered against Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate Javed Qadri in Shopian constituency for allegedly assaulting a polling agent.

Pahalgam constituency recorded a turnout of 68.53 percent, the highest in the Kashmir Valley in the fourth phase. Hazratbal recorded a turnout of 29.36, Zadibal 23.64, Idgah 27.79, Khanyar 26.12, Amirakadal 24.81, Sonawar 44.17, Batamaloo 24.34, Anantnag 38.67, Doru 63.94, Kokernag 64.9, Shangus 67.27, Bijbehara 53.87, Wachi 42.66, Shopian 52.6 and Samba (reserved) 77.7. Officials said the poll process ended peacefully without any separatist violence.

In Amira Kadal constituency in Srinagar district, witnesses accused BJP candidate Hina Bhat of misbehaving with a polling officer. Narula said the incident was being investigated. Angry workers of the National Conference started shouting slogans against Bhat and the BJP after news of the incident spread in the area. Additional security was rushed to escort the BJP candidate out of the polling station as a large number of agitating National Conference supporters gathered there.

As many as 440 companies of paramilitary forces were deployed Sunday across the constituencies that went to the polls, in addition to state police personnel. Some high profile candidates were Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, former chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, and ministers Ali Muhammad Sagar, G.A. Mir and Peerzada Sayeed. Abdullah of the National Conference was contesting from Sonawar in Srinagar while Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) patron Sayeed contested from Anantnag.

Outgoing Speaker Mubarak Gul contested from Idgah constituency in Srinagar. Polling was sluggish in the morning but picked up a bit in Srinagar and elsewhere in the Kashmir Valley during the day with a weak winter sun struggling hard to break through the clouds. After a dull start, voters lined up at many polling stations in Mehjoor Nagar, Bemina, Rawalpora, Baghat Barzalla, Zadibal, Khimmer and Chatterhama areas of Srinagar city where eight constituencies were located as well as in Anantnag and Shopian.

Very few votes were, however, cast in the old city areas of Srinagar, the traditional stronghold of separatists. The voter turnout was good in Wachi and Shopian constituencies of Shopian district too, officials said, although these two places are believed to harbour separatist sympathisers. The fifth and final phase of polling will take place Dec 20. Votes will be counted Dec 23.

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