Defying a separatist call to boycott the polls, voters in Kashmir Tuesday queued up in large numbers at booths in the third round of the staggered assembly elections. There were stray incidents of violence that failed to dampen voter enthusiasm, with a quarter of votes being polled by afternoon.The ballotting took place four days after a string of terror attacks left 21 people, including eight soldiers, dead in Kashmir.Voters trickled out Tuesday morning at almost all the polling stations to elect representatives for the 16 assembly segments despite the freezing cold that gripped Kashmir.As the day progressed and the sun peeped out, more voters thronged the polling booths.By afternoon, the state recorded an average voter turnout of 27 percent. In the initial morning hours, the voter turnout was 16 percent. The electorate includes 717,049 males, 650,476 females and 23 third-gender voters.
Long queues of enthusiastic voters in Kramshore village of Khansahib constituency in Badgam district seemed determined Tuesday to choose their representatives, completely ignoring the separatist calls to stay away from voting. Of nearly 1,100 votes at this polling station, over 150, including men and women, especially first time voters, had lined up outside the polling station in the first one hour.The voter mood was festive as most of them said they were out to vote for change."I have come out to vote because the only thing that can now make any difference to our backward, neglected village is change. This is a chance we do not want to miss at any cost," Muhammad Shafi, 42, a voter at Kramshore polling station, told IANS.
Over 13 lakh voters will get to decide the political fate of 138 candidates in the districts of Baramulla, Budgam and Pulwama at 1,781 polling stations.Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, Chowdhary Taj Mohiuddin, Ghulam Hassan Mir, Abdul Rahim Rather and Javaid Ahmad Dar are among the prominent candidates.Undeterred by separatist threats and boycott calls, people stood in queues in Badgam town, which is part of the Badgam constituency.Moderate to brisk voting was also seen in Uri, Pattan, Sangrama and Gulmarg constituencies of Baramulla district while Sopore constituency witnessed very low turnout.In Beerwah constituency of Badgam district, from where Omar Abdullah is contesting, long voter queues were formed at booths.
In Tral constituency, just 10 votes were polled at the higher secondary school polling station in the town during the first two hours.Rajpora, Pulwama and Pampore constituencies also saw voters turning up in good numbers as the bright, but weak winter sun started throwing some warmth in the valley.There were stray incidents of violence.A grenade was hurled at Khypora police station in Gulmarg. But, there were no casualties.A group of youths attempted to dissuade voters from exercising their franchise in Palhalam town of Pattan constituency by pelting stones. The police chased them away.
The voters were, however, unfazed.At Gowharpora polling station in Chadura constituency, a small queue started building as the doors of the polling station were opened to the voters.In Tral constituency of Pulwama district, where two civilians were killed in a grenade explosion Dec 5, no voters had turned out at polling stations early in the morning.In Baramulla district, where seven constituencies went to poll Tuesday, voter queues were seen in Uri constituency in the morning but there were hardly any voters outside polling stations in Sopore town.The weather office has forecast fair weather across the valley Tuesday.No constituency in Jammu region goes to the polls Tuesday.Over 500 companies of Jammu and Kashmir Police and the Central Reserve Police Force have been deployed.