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Over 40 pc voting in Baramulla, 55 in Ladakh

IANS
May 13, 2009 at 06:46pm IST

Baramulla: Hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic voters came out in Jammu and Kashmir's Baramulla constituency on Wednesday to exercise their franchise despite a boycott call by separatists and threats from militant groups.

According to rough estimates, some 421,000 voters of over one million electorate cast their votes by 5 pm in Baramulla, once a hotbed of militancy and a stronghold of pro-Pakistan separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani.

The state's cold desert region Ladakh saw a turnout of over 55 when the polling closed.

ALL VOTES IN: Hundreds of thousands of voters came out in Jammu and Kashmir.

Voting percentages are expected to go up as the data was still being collated from remote areas, an official said.

The voting percentage in Baramulla was far higher than in Anantnag and Srinagar constituencies in the Kashmir Valley. The two constituencies, which voted in earlier rounds of the staggered Lok Sabha elections, had recorded an overall percentage of 26 and 24 respectively.

Highest polling was recorded in Handwara (61 per cent) while Sopore - a Jamaat-e-Islami stronghold - saw lowest at 10.

Voting percentage recorded in Rafiabad was 52, followed by Sonawari 47, Gurez 44, Karnah 43, Kupwara 42, Lolab and Langate 33 each, Uri 32, Bandipora 28, Sangrama 23, Pattan 22, Gulmarg 19 and Baramulla 18.

"Polling has been peaceful throughout the Baramulla and Ladakh constituencies," a police officer told IANS.

Separatist leaders had insisted on boycott of the polls while as Pakistan-based militant groups - the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the United Jehad Council - had threatened people to vote "at their own peril".

Baramulla had recorded 35.66 per cent voting in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections while in Ladakh it was 73 per cent then.

Baramulla is witnessing a triangular contest between Sharief-ud-Din Shariq (National Conference), Mohammed Dilawar Mir (Peoples Democratic Party) and Sajjad Gani Lone of the separatist People's Conference.

All eyes are on Lone, the surprise entrant in the poll ring. Lone is the first separatist leader in Kashmir to contest the polls since an armed uprising broke out in 1989.

Voting picked up as the day progressed in Buddhist-dominated Ladakh where four candidates are in the fray. The main contest is between P. Namgyal (Congress) and Ghulam Hassan Khan (independent).

Ladakh has always been polarised between Buddhist and Muslim voters.

Senior separatist leaders including Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik are under house arrest to prevent anti-poll protests.

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