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J&K leads separatists 2-0

65% polling was recorded in the valley despite boycott call by separatists.

, ET Bureau|
Nov 24, 2008, 01.56 AM IST
GANDERBAL/SRINAGAR: Proving that the high voting percentage in the first phase of Jammu & Kashmir elections was no flash in the pan, Sunday witnessed 65% polling across six constituencies of the state with people coming out to vote in large numbers defying boycott call given by the separatists.

Kashmir divisional commissioner Masood Samoon said compared to 2002, the participation improved by a huge margin. Participation in Ganderbal jumped from 35% in 2002 to 44% this time and in Kangan it was 60% compared to 52% in 2002.���Poll percentage improved for the entire Rajouri district,��� Mr Samoon said.

In Nowshehra, polling improved from 57% in 2002 to 70%; in Darhal, from 46% to 73%; in Rajouri, from 27% to 67% and Kalakote from 48% to 73%. Insisting that the figures were tentative, he put district average at 70.50%. ���There is long queue waiting in Lar polling station right now,��� he said.

Long queue outside polling stations marked the beginning of the day almost everywhere barring town���s urban belt Same pattern was witnessed in Daderhama, Beehama, Guzarbal and Arampora ��� the localities forming Ganderbal town. When the polling was near to a close, it had polled slightly over 800 of its 3,135 votes. In fact, Beehama witnessed intense bout of sloganeering against the exercise and a brief pitched battle between police and the protesters.

There were protests and clashes between the boycott lobby and the police in Barsoo and Kurhama as well. Many people were beaten by cops but there was no instance of coercion or intimidation. Exercise looked fairly clean. Samoon in Srinagar said they had appointed 136 micro-observers.

But those who voted had a strong conviction. A poorly clad Abdul Rahim Dar in Tulmula said he voted for NC because of Sheikh Abdullah. ���These (pointing towards youth) people are calling him names but they do not know what he did. He gave us (Article) 370, he set up Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical sciences and gave us Dargah Hazratbal. Then, I had only Rs 5 that I donated for the shrine���.

The old man was laughed away but it did not deter him from saying what he believed in. A frail Abdul Gaffar, over 70, remembers the day when Sheikh Abdullah gave him a stick to defend Kashmir from the tribal raiders in 1947. ���But I voted for Ishfaq because I loved his father,��� he said.

The keenly watched segment with NC president Omar Abdullah pitted against 11 others, voted in such a way that the winner ultimately will not have a huge margin. In Lar belt, which till Saturday was being projected as PDP contestant Qazi Afzal���s bastion had more support for the young Congressman, Sheikh Ishfaq, who resigned as police sub inspector last month.

���We voted for our young neighbour simply because old is no more gold,��� said Abdul Rashid, a student after casting his vote in Lar. It had long lines of men and women including a few Kashmiri Pandits waiting outside the local school. The young entrant seems to have taken his share of votes from the influences of both the NC and the PDP.

Sheerpathri belt that has traditionally been offering the decisive punch to the winner is divided this time. A local candidate, Farooq Ganderbali, a renegade turned small time journalist, is getting a chunk of votes on local factor.In Bamloora, a village that looked akin to NC headquarters in the area, had enthusiastic long queues even by 4 pm.

Though most of them said they voted Omar but PDP took its own share. Even in Saloora, another NC bastion, voters had mixed affiliations.
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