Srinagar: Defying separatists' boycott call and chilly weather, voters came out in good numbers on Sunday to record a 49 per cent turnout in the fourth and penultimate phase of Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections that involved 18 seats.
The polling in the four districts--Srinagar, Anantnag, Shopian(all in Valley) and Samba(Jammu region) was four per cent higher than that in the 2008 Assembly elections but it was lower compared to the average 71 per cent in the first two phases and 59 per cent in the third phase.
Although the polling was by and large peaceful in all the districts, several incidents of clashes between supporters of rival political parties and alleged high handedness by two BJP candidates--Javed Ahmad Qadri(Shopian) and Hina Bhat (Amirakadal) were reported in the Valley.
"An estimated 49 per cent of over 14.73 lakh voters exercised their franchise in the penultimate phase of the five-phased assembly elections," Chief Electoral Officer Umang Narula told reporters here.
The 18 assembly segments had recorded 45 per cent polling in the 2008 Assembly polls and 29 per cent in the Lok Sabha elections held earlier this year, he said.
Deputy Election Commissioner Vinod Zutshi told reporters in Delhi that barring a few stray incidents, polling in the state was peaceful. A FIR has been lodged after an election agent of an Independent alleged that he was manhandled by a BJP candidate in Shopian district, he said.
All the eight constituencies of Srinagar district together registered an increase in the voter turn out--28 per cent-- which was six per cent more compared to that in 2008 assembly election. It was a mere 10.71 per cent for these constituencies in the recent Lok Sabha elections.
It was 66.6 per cent in the Assembly polls in 1987, 19.24 per cent in 1996, 11.17 per cent in 2002 and 21.93 per cent in 2008, according to official data.
Anantnag and Shopian districts of south Kashmir witnessed a slight dip in overall poll percentage compared to 2008 polls, recording 61 and 50 per cent, respectively.
Anantnag had recorded 63.20 per cent in 2008, while Shopian had registered 50.65 per cent polling.
With the completion of the fourth phase, the voting in 67 out of 87 assembly constituencies was completed and it is over in the Valley. Voting in the remaining 20 assembly seats spread over three districts of Jammu region will be held on December 20, while counting of votes will be taken up on December 23.
Giving break-up of the polling, Narula said Samba district in Jammu region recorded the highest 80.10 per cent as against 77.90 per cent in 2008.
Narula said Vijaypur constituency in Samba district registered the highest turnout of 81.17 per cent while Habbakadal constituency in Srinagar witnessed the lowest at 21.01 per cent.
Despite severe cold, long queues of voters were seen outside the polling stations to exercise their franchise at many polling stations throughout the day.
Sonawar constituency, where Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is contesting from a second seat, witnessed the highest 44.17 per cent turnout in Srinagar against 39.61 per cent in 2008. Besides Omar, the other key candidates in the fray are PDP patron and former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed who is contesting from Anantnag constituency.
Reacting to the alleged slapping of a polling official by BJP's Hina Bhat, the Chief Electoral Officer said he has asked the district election officer to probe the matter and submit a report.
"Once the report is submitted, we will decide the next course of action," Narula told reporters here.
He also said that an FIR has been registered in connection with a BJP candidate from Shopian constituency thrashing a voter inside a polling booth.
Meanwhile, polling in rest of the constituencies saw an increase as compared to the last Assembly polls.
Anantnag constituency in south Kashmir, where PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed is a candidate, saw 38.67 per cent of the electorate casting their votes against 41.33 per cent in 2008.
Hazratbal recorded 29.36 per cent polling against 28.91 in 2008. Eidgah recorded 27.79 per cent against 22.07 in 2008, Khanyar (26.12 against 17.41), Amirakadal (24.81 against 14.98), Batamaloo (24.34 against 19.95), Zadibal (23.64 against 17.30) and Habbakadal (21.01 against 11.62).
Pahalgam constituency in Anantnag district registered the highest voter turnout of 68.53 per cent. Today's voting turnout was slightly less than 70.24 in 2008.
Shangus constituency in the district recorded 67.27 per cent against 69.25 in 2008, followed by Kokernag 64.90 as against 70.33 in 2008, Dooru 63.94 against 69.76 and Bijbehara (53.87 against 60.75).
Nearby Shopian district also witnessed a dip in the voter turnout as Shopian Assembly segment recorded 52.60 per cent as against 53 per cent in 2008 while Wachi segment recorded 42.66 per cent against 48.54 per cent in the last Assembly polls.
The two constituencies of Samba district witnessed an increase in the voter turnout. While Vijaypur segment recorded 81.17 per cent as against 76.94 in 2008 assembly elections, Samba registered a voter turnout of 77.70 per cent against 72.52 per cent in the last Assembly polls.
Narula said out of 9,638 registered migrant voters, 5,169 exercise their franchise at special polling centres outside the Valley.
He said the polling across the four districts remained by and large peaceful.