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Phase VI poll holds biggest surprise in J&K

Long queues were seen outside almost all polling stations in 10 south Kashmir constituencies which went to polls in the penultimate phase of the seven-phase polls in J&K on Wednesday.

, ET Bureau|
Dec 18, 2008, 04.55 AM IST
ANANTNAG: Long queues were seen outside almost all polling stations in 10 south Kashmir constituencies which went to polls in the penultimate phase of the seven-phase polls in J&K on Wednesday. All seats improved their 2002 tally phenomenally. People in certain areas like Kulgam insisted that they should be permitted to vote even after polling hours.

The Election Commission said the improvement in voter participation was impressive. "Last time, Anantnag polled 7.16% and this time it is 38%. In Kulgam it jumped from 15.27% in 2002 to 57% this time." The overall average for 16 seats was 60%, with 57% in Anantnag and 57% in Kulgam.

Barring Anantnag town, where a few protesting groups were chased away by police, there was no visible instance of resistance anywhere. A landmine explosion before polling hours and killing of two Hizbul Mujahideen militants ��� one of them had escaped earlier this year while being taken to court ��� by police in a Shopian village failed to deter voters from turning up for polling.

Former chief minister Mufti Sayeed Sayeed and his daughter Mehbooba Mufti cast their vote in Bejbehara.

By around 10 am, when brisk polling was reported almost everywhere, Nazir Ahmad Lone, a Forward Bloc candidate from Humshalibugh, was on the highway with dozens of supporters. "I fail to understand what this election is all about. For around two months I have been asking people to vote for my symbol , lion, but when polling started, today , I find my symbol is aircraft.���

Nazir's wife Hajira is also contesting on the Forward Bloc ticket from Bejbehara . When alerted, the EC official said: ���We will look into the grave irregularity (the change of symbol)."

There were 271 candidates in fray for 16 seats in five districts with a voter population of 1.16 million. The number of contestants added colour to the exercise , though it may not lead to a grossly split verdict. Contestants for this phase included former chief minister's Mufti Sayeed and Ghulam Nabi Azad, in the fray from Anantnag and Bhaderwah, respectively. Both segments witnessed improved voting percentage with Bhaderwah jumping to 64 %. In Nowgam village of Shangus, the entire village of 5,000 voters lined up outside four polling stations. They were voting for Imtiaz A Rather, a lecturer who resigned to try his luck in politics.

Abdul Aziz, an elderly villager said they were out only to keep PDP away. The village has an interesting grouse with the party. In 2007 when the ordinance depot went up in flame, villagers said only five villages were hit. "PDP got enough compensation but instead of given it all to five villages, they distributed it to 14 villages."

"Had they fielded Pir Mohammad Hussain we would have voted for him but the party gave the ticket to his sonin-law whom we do not like for more than one reason" . Apart from Shangus that saw 68% polling, compared to 25.40% in 2002, there are four segments that saw a tight contest.

Kulgam, which has remained CPM's pocket borough in the last 12 years is witnessing a wave for a change. But the division of votes could still help Yousuf Tarigami to retain the seat for the third time. Ghulam Ahmad Mir of Congress, who emerged winner in a 25.40% polling in 2002, may find it difficult to retain Dooru that polled 68% on Wednesday.

Mir was one of the two former minister who was detained by CBI in the sex racket case. Kokernag saw a keen triangular contest between Congress's Peerzada Sayeed (who was forced to step down as PCC chief and later lost his cabinet berth following a corruption case), NC and PDP.

PDP has fielded Sehar Iqbal, a UK returned social worker and daughter of a top bureaucrat.
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