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Huge voter turnout in Kashmir's third phase polling

National,Politics, Sun, 30 Nov 2008 IANS

Kupwara, Nov 30 (IANS) Braving freezing temperatures and ignoring Muslim separatists' boycott call once again, voters came out in large numbers in the Kashmir Valley to vote in the third round of the staggered assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir Sunday.


Brisk and peaceful polling was reported from the five constituencies of north Kashmir's Kupwara district where balloting began on a dull note in the morning due to the cold weather but picked up as the day progressed, Election Commission officials said.



They said that by 2 p.m. Kupwara registered the highest 55 percent turnout and Karnah recorded 53 percent.



In Lolab, 43 percent of the voters had exercised their franchise and Handwara and Langate saw 37 and 36 percent turnout respectively.



The electoral battle, expected to throw surprises, is being keenly watched because slain separatist leader Abdul Gani Lone's daughter Shabnum is contesting as an independent candidate from Kupwara constituency.



Shabnum's two brothers Bilal and Sajad Lone -- also separatist leaders -- are, however, vociferously campaigning for a boycott of the elections.



The large turnout and winding queues outside the polling stations are significant in view of the boycott call by the separatists, which voters defied in the first and second phase of polling in Jammu and Kashmir.



Jammu and Kashmir will witness a total of seven rounds of polling, ending Dec 24. The votes will be counted four days later.



There were long queues of electors at Kulangam, Chokel and Puriphet polling stations of Handwara constituency.



At Puriphet, voters were enthusiastic though balloting started an hour late because of a faulty electronic voting machine (EVM).



For the 335,927 eligible voters, including 163,144 women, in this round there are 480 polling stations. Seventy-one candidates, including 31 independents and five women, are in the fray.



Except for an anti-election protest in Trehgam village of Kupwara constituency, no untoward incident was reported. A team of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) used batons to disperse the protesters shouting pro-freedom slogans, a police officer said.


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