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60% turnout in J&K bypolls
Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar
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April 24, 2006 11:43 IST
Last Updated: April 24, 2006 21:08 IST

Despite militant attacks and a boycott call given by separatists, nearly 60 per cent of over 2.5 lakh electorate exercised their franchise Monday in the bypolls to four Assembly constituencies of Jammu and Kashmir [Images], including Bhaderwah from where Chief Minister Ghulam [Images] Nabi Azad is seeking his maiden entry into the House.

Rafiabad Assembly segment, where militants hurled a grenade near a polling station, registered the highest turnout of 66 per cent followed by 64 per cent in Bhaderwah, where Azad is pitted in a straight fight against Bharatiya Janata Party candidate Koshal Kotwal, EC sources said.

Serpentine queues were seen outside most of the polling stations where voters had turned out much ahead of the scheduled start of the polling.

Although separatist organisations including hardline faction of Hurriyat, Democratic Freedom Party and Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front conducted an extensive poll boycott campaign in Kashmir Valley, the electorate paid no heed to the call and braved militant attacks to register their choice.

The turnout in this bypoll was signficantly higher than the 2002 general elections as all the constituencies registered a voter turnout close to the national average.

Barring the grenade attacks on polling booths at Palhalan and Wagoora and Rafiabad in Baramulla district which left 10 persons, including four securitymen injured, the voting remained by and large peaceful, a police spokesman said.

Pattan registered a 16 point increase while Sangrama's turnout during this bypoll nearly doubled reaching 43 per cent against 22 in 2002.

Azad's victory is a forgone conclusion in light of the fact that the locals are enthusiastic to have a chief minister from their constituency for the first time.

In the three Valley constituencies, the main contest is between the ruling Peoples Democratic Party and the NC that has fielded former minister Mustaffa Kamal from Pattan constituency against the senior Shia leader Moulvi Iftikhar Ansari of the PDP.

In Rafiabad the PDP candidate Mohammad Dillawar Mir has a one-on-one contest with the NC's advocate Mohammad Amin, while in neighbouring Sangrama constituency Javed Hussain Beigh, the nephew of state deputy chief minister, is pitched against an independent candidate Shoaib Lone who is backed by the NC.

With PTI Inputs 

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