Baramulla sees nearly 40 percent turnout, Ladakh 65 percent voting

Baramulla/Leh, May 7 (IANS) There was at least 65 percent polling for Jammu and Kashmir's Ladakh Lok Sabha seat Wednesday while almost 40 percent turnout was recorded in the state's Baramulla constituency, where voters defied a separatist call for a poll boycott.

"39.6 percent polling was recorded in 15 assembly segments of Baramulla parliamentary constituency which went to polls on Wednesday amid tight security," state's chief electoral officer (CEO) Umang Narula told a media conference in Srinagar in the evening.

"This percentage can marginally increase as these figures are tentative as we are yet to receive polling figures from several polling stations. But, I can confirm 39.6 percent voting in Baramulla Parliamentary constituency as of now," he said.

Voting in the three districts of Baramulla Lok Sabha seat was 25.04 percent in Baramulla, 35.65 percent in Bandipora and 63.19 percent in Kupwara district.

Till 3 p.m., the Karnah assembly segment saw over 50 percent polling while the lowest was recorded in Sopore assembly segment where less than 1 percent voters exercised their franchise.

Long queues were seen in Hajin, Dangerpora, Malroo and Nesbal villages in the Sumbal assembly segment despite fears that voters might prefer to stay away from polling stations, heeding a boycott call by the separatists.

In Baramulla town, where the poll authorities have clustered 11 polling stations in the old town for security reasons, just 25 votes were cast by 3 p.m.

Baramulla town is a bastion of hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani, who has given a poll boycott call in the Kashmir Valley.

The main contest in Baramulla is between the ruling National Conference candidate Sharief-ud-Din Shariq who is seeking re-election and Muzaffar Hussain Baig of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

There are 13 other candidates in the fray and prominent among them are Engineer Rashid, a sitting Jammu and Kashmir legislator, and Salamuddin Bajad, a tribal Gujjar fielded by the Peoples Conference (PC) headed by Sajjad Gani Lone.

There are 11.89 lakh voters in Baramulla. In the 2009 elections, 41.84 percent voters exercised their franchise.

Narula said that in the Ladakh seat, the poll percentage was 65 percent.

In the constituency - India's biggest in terms of area - queues of voters, both men and women, could be seen even before the voting started at 7 a.m. at the Goma polling station in Kargil district.

In the 2009 elections, 71.86 percent votes were polled in Ladakh.

Poll officials, some of whom spoke to IANS, said they are expecting the voting percentage to increase given the enthusiasm of the voters.

The voters wore their traditional dresses to the polling stations.

As many as 1.59 lakh voters get to decide the fate of four candidates for the Ladakh Lok Sabha seat. They are Tsering Samphal of the Congress, Thupstan Chhewang of the Bharatiya Janata Party and two Independents, Ghulam Raza and Sayed Mohammad Kazim.

Narula said 2,147 polling stations were set up across the two parliamentary constituencies, which included 132 critical and 1,091 hyper sensitive polling stations based on security concerns.

"Web casting was done in 15 booths, besides 20 digital as well as 92 video cameras were installed for covering the voting process. 19 candidates were in fray for these two constituencies, which comprised 13,57,321 electorate comprising 7,10,105 males and 6,47,180 females."

Inspector General of Police (Kashmir) Abdul Ghani Mir, who was also present, said that extraordinary security arrangements were put in place to conduct the election smoothly and peacefully and barring a few incidents of stone-pelting the situation remained peaceful throughout.