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Voting ends in Kashmir

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People queue-up to cast their votes during the fourth phase of Jammu and Kashmir assembly polls in Batamaloo constituency on Dec 14, 2014.

People queue-up to cast their votes during the fourth phase of Jammu and Kashmir assembly polls in Batamaloo constituency on Dec 14, 2014.
People queue-up to cast their votes during the fourth phase of Jammu and Kashmir assembly polls in Batamaloo constituency on Dec 14, 2014.

The fifth and final phase of assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir ended peacefully Saturday, with over 65 percent of the voters casting their ballot in 20 constituencies, officials said.

“Polling ended peacefully in all the 20 constituencies of Jammu, Rajouri and Kathua districts at 4 p.m. today (Saturday),” an Election Commission official said.

Initial figures indicated that 65 percent voters turned up to exercise their franchise till the voting process ended.

“However, these figures are subject to variation as final reports about poll percentages are still coming in. The day’s poll process was peaceful,” the official said.

A total of 213 candidates were in fray.

Eleven constituencies voted in Jammu, four in Rajouri and five in Kathua district.Braving the winter chill, about one-fifth of the voters Saturday exercised their franchise in the initial hours in the last phase of the Jammu and Kashmir state assembly elections, an official said.

The Election Commission official said after a dull start, voters started to line up at many polling stations in Jammu, Kathua and Rajouri districts.

Nearly 18 percent voter turnout was recorded during the first two hours, he said. Polling started at 8 a.m. and will end at 4 p.m.

Polling is being held in 20 of 87 assembly constituencies. Over 18 lakh voters are eligible to decide the fate of 213 candidates.

At a model polling station in Gandhinagar area, arrangements have been made by the poll authorities to serve tea to the voters.

Adequate arrangements have been made in the polling stations lying close to the international border and Line of Control in Jammu district, Ajeet Kumar Sahu, district election officer, said.

Contingency arrangements have also been made to shift polling stations to safer locations if there is any incident of firing from across the border, Sahu said.

Security checkposts have also been set up to ensure that subversive elements are prevented from interfering with the democratic process, he added.

In Jammu East, Jammu West, Bishnah, Marh and Nagrota constituencies, considerable numbers of voters had turned up at the polling stations.

In the border constituencies of R.S. Pura, Suchetgarh and Akhnoor, voters came out in larger numbers compared with urban centres.

Women voters outnumbered men in Kathua district’s Hiranagar border constituency.

In far-flung Bani and Billawar constituencies of Kathua, voting started on a low key although poll officials said the process would pick up as the fog lifts and the day warmed up.

In the four constituencies of Rajouri, Kalakote, Darhal and Nowshera in Rajouri district, voting was slow in the morning.

In Jammu district’s Chhamb constituency, the majority of voters are farmers who also rare milch cattle besides tending their agricultural fields.

Even if you want to restrain your conversation to the day’s voting and future expectations, the voters vent their anger before talking about anything else.

“You have seen this road? It has not be metalled nor black-topped since 1998. It has been the same for the last 18 years. What is true of the road is true of everything else here,” said Pratap Singh, a taxi driver of Hamirpur village.

“Whatever the ultimate result of the assembly elections elsewhere, we are voting for change. Our lives have become hell due to border shelling and complete neglect by the people in power,” Singh, 45, said.

Counting for all the 87 assembly seats will be held Dec 23.