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Assembly polls: Record turnout in J&K, high polling in Jharkhand

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Ranchi/Srinagar (Nov. 25, 2014): Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday registered a record 71.28% turnout in the first phase of incident-free Assembly elections when people ignored boycott calls by separatists and cold conditions to cast their votes in 15 constituencies.

Jharkhand also recorded a high turnout of nearly 62% in the 13 Naxal-affected constituencies in the opening phase of the five-phased polls in both the states. In Jammu and Kashmir,  a 61.23% voter turnout was recorded in the 2008 Assembly polls for these 15 seats--6 in Jammu division, 5 in Kashmir Valley and four in Ladakh. Today's polling was spread over seven districts. The overall turnout in the state in the Assembly elections in 1996 and 2012 was 53.92% and 43.69% respectively.

"Polling has gone off absolutely peaceful without any incident. It was 100% flawless polls and there was not a single incident which vitiates poll process," Deputy Election Commissioner Vinod Zutshi told. Dealing a serious blow to separatist politics, thousands of voters had lined up before polling stations. Nearly 10.52 lakh voters were eligible to vote. Separatist groups like all the factions of Hurriyat Conference and JKLF have called for a boycott of the polls and a general strike as well in the state which has been affected by militancy for over 25 years. A total of 123 candidates including seven ministers were in the fray with the ruling coalition partners National Conference and Congress and the Opposition People's Democratic Party(PDP) and BJP fighting for the spoils.

In five Kashmir Valley constituencies, two in Ganderbal district recorded 68% turnout -- an increase of 13% from 2008 assembly polls -- while three in Bandipora district recorded 70.30%, registering an increase of 11%.

Sonawari consituency in the Kashmir Valley recorded a turnout as high as 80.10%. A total 61.92% votes were cast in 13 of the 81 assembly seats in Jharkhand as the polling in the Maoist-hit state passed off by and large peacefully. "The percentage (of votes) could be updated later," an official with the Election Commission here said.  

The constituencies which went to polls in Jharkhand on Tuesday are Chatra(SC), Gumla (ST), Bishunpur (ST), Lohardaga (ST), Manika (ST), Latehar (SC), Panki and Daltonganj, Bishrampur, Chhatarpur (SC), Hussainabad, Garhwa and Bhawanathpur. In six seats of Jammu division, two constituencies in Doda district recorded a turn out of 76% while it was 70% each for the four seats in Kishtwar and Ramban districts. While there was increase of eight% in Doda district and nearly four% in Ramban district, Kishtwar district recorded a drop of over 3%. The four constituencies of Ladakh region, which normally witnesses high voter turnout, marked a decrease in number of voters exercising their franchise.

In two constituencies of Leh district, the turn out was 57%, down from 61.88% in 2008 assembly polls and substantially down from 68.23% registered during the Lok Sabha polls earlier this year. In Kargil district, 59% voters cast their votes against 72.90% in 2008 elections. Early morning chill and fog failed to dampen the spirits of the voters who had assembled at the polling stations an hour before the scheduled start of voting. The voting time had to be extended in several polling stations to allow those voters, who were already inside the polling station premises, to cast their votes.