The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Poll panel happy with first round

New Delhi, Sept. 16: The Election Commission claimed a 44 per cent turnout at the end of the first phase of the Jammu and Kashmir polls. Twenty-three constituencies, covering five districts, went to polls today.

“We are satisfied with the elections,” said deputy election commissioner Sayan Chatterjee.

Although comparisons with voting percentages in 1996 in the same constituencies might show a decline, the two situations are not comparable. In 1996, the polls were widely perceived to have been rigged and people complained of coercion by the army.

This time, there were no reports of coercion. Foreign diplomats and journalists were allowed to visit booths in all areas to see for themselves whether the polling was free and fair. This is, perhaps, one reason why the Election Commission expressed its satisfaction despite sporadic incidents of violence.

“There are two cases of repolling before us. One constituency in Pattan in Baramullah district and the other in Mendha in Poonch district,” Chatterjee said at a press conference.

Militant-infested constituencies like Kupwara recorded 40 per cent polling, Hindwara 26 per cent, Langate 31 per cent, Rafiabad 33 per cent, Sangrama 11 per cent, Bandipore 31 per cent, Naushera 50 per cent, Rajouri 47 per cent, Kalakot 43 per cent, Surankot 33 per cent, Mendhar 45 per cent and Poonch 48 per cent. Except for Poonch, Rajouri, Kupwara, Bandipore and Langate, the figures available were for 4 pm.

Among the other constituencies, Uri recorded 60 per cent polling, Karnah 55 per cent, Gurez 60 per cent, Baramullah 23 per cent, Gulmarg 45 per cent and Darhal 32 per cent (all figures for 4 pm). Pattan recorded a 41 per cent turnout at the end of polling.

Kargil recorded the highest turnout with 67 per cent, while 42 per cent voted in Zanskar. The lowest turnout was at Sopore, where only six per cent people cast their ballot.

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