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Mr Separatist, better pack up bags

Voters came in droves, where 10% voting is highest entry, since 1989.

, ET Bureau|
Dec 25, 2008, 03.27 AM IST
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SRINAGAR: In a crushing blow to the separatists��� call for poll boycott, the final round of Jammu and Kashmir assembly elections saw 52% voting on Wednesday. People turned out in large numbers even in Srinagar, where no constituency had recorded even 10% voting since 1989.

More than 52% voting was recorded in 21 constituencies that went to polls Wednesday. With this, the overall voter turnout in all the seven phases has been put at 61%, deputy election commissioner R Bhattacharya said in New Delhi adding the percentage might go up.

In the eight segments of Srinagar, the turnout was around 20%, a huge improvement over 5% voting recorded in the last assembly elections. Barring the main roads, which remained deserted, the situation in the interior of the city was comparatively relaxed. With all the separatists under house arrest and roads sealed, policemen at many places clashed with protestors shouting anti-poll slogans. Twenty people were injured during the protests. These included a photo-journalist who received a tear-smoke shell in his abdomen.

There were interesting contrasts at many places within and outside the city where poll boycott lobby was active alongside those lined up for polling.

Expectedly, the heart of old city stayed away from the polls. Curfew like situation prevailed in Nawhatta, Rajouri Kadal, Gojwara, Nowshehra and all the adjoining localities. By afternoon, there were barely eight voters in three polling booths housed in heritage Islamia School. Though people stayed in doors, at a few places they were out in groups near the polling stations busy discussing the routine but not interested in exercising their right of franchise.

In Batamaloo, a group of youth angrily reacted to a few elderly voters for their participation and it triggered a wave for anti-poll campaign throughout the belt. Almost in a similar situation, a huge procession came out in Tankipora-Kani Kadal-Haba Kadal belt that clashed with police. Paramilitary men dotting the interiors said they have implemented curfew over a kilometer long road to maintain order.


But there were pockets very close to boycott scenes, where polling took place. In Khanyar quite opposite to the local shrine, 30% of voters had polled by afternoon.

Interestingly, while six constituencies polled below 20%, the two segments���Sonawar and Hazratbal���had a massive turnout at 33.64% and 26.5%. Dr Farooq Abdullah, the four time CM, is contesting from both the seats. In Jammu, while polling began on a slightly dull note on the cold and foggy morning, voters in the 13 constituencies came out in huge numbers as the day progressed.

Former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad of the Congress was among the first to cast his vote in the Jammu East constituency. He said: ���I am confident that the Congress will form the next government in Jammu and Kashmir on its own.���

Security was tight after the arrest of three terrorists of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), who police said were planning a suicide attack in the winter capital. But that did not deter voters from coming out.

In Jammu city, the atmosphere was festive. Voters turned up in their festive best to take advantage of the holiday that the government had declared. The results will be declared on December 28.
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