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Turnout drops in Round II

New Delhi, Sept. 24: The average turnout for the second phase of the Jammu and Kashmir polls today was lower than that of the first phase on September 16.

According to figures given out by the Election Commission, Jammu, Srinagar and Badgam recorded an average turnout of 42 per cent while the average poll percentage in the first phase was 47.25 per cent — the revised official figure replacing the initial 45.4 per cent. A total of 28 constituencies spread over the three districts went to polls today.

“We can see that the voting pattern in the urban constituencies of Srinagar has remained low as in the previous elections,” said deputy election commissioner Sayan Chatterjee at a news conference. He blamed a spurt in violence on the eve of polling for the low turnout.

“If militant attacks had not come so immediately before the polls, the turnout could have been different,” Chatterjee said.

Jammu recorded 59 per cent voting, Badgam 51 per cent and Srinagar only 11 per cent. Jammu’s Chham constituency recorded the highest turnout of 70 per cent while the least of one per cent was at Happakadal in Srinagar.

In the Valley, Chrar-e-Sharif recorded 59 per cent turnout, the highest, while Jammu West constituency saw 42 per cent polling.

In Udhampur, 92 of the 305 migrants who had registered to vote turned up. In Jammu, 2,323 voted and in Delhi 78. Chatterjee said a comparison of the voting percentage of this election with that of 1996 was not possible since the combination of constituencies was different.

The BJP central command greeted the second phase of polling with the same response it had shown after the first phase.

“(The) Jammu and Kashmir elections have dealt a severe blow to the Pakistan-sponsored terrorist activities in the state. The terrorists have not been able to derail the polls,” general secretary Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said at a news conference.

Pakistan, Naqvi added, had tried its best to throw the democratic process out of gear, but the people have shown their “unflinching” faith in the electoral system.

The BJP general secretary said statements by Hurriyat Conference leaders had exposed them — they were acting on Pakistan’s fiat. “India does not need a certificate from Islamabad,” stated Naqvi, adding that the country had no “right” to speak on democracy.

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