Polling underway for third phase J-K polls

SRINAGAR : Braving cold weather, nearly 12 per cent of the electorate today exercised their franchise in the first two hours of voting in 16 constituencies of Jammu and Kashmir.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and three of his cabinet colleagues are among 144 candidates whose fate will be decided in the third phase of polling today in the 16 seats spread across Budgam, Pulwama and Baramulla districts.
At many places, voters lined up at polling stations much before the start of the voting time at 8 AM.
An average 11.76 per cent of voters exercised their franchise till 10 AM, poll officials said.
While Beerwah in Budgam district witnessed 18.16 per cent of the voters casting their ballot, Sopore registered only four per cent voting till 10 AM, the officials said.
Uri saw over 10 per cent of the electorate exercising their franchise, Rafiabad 12 per cent while Gulmarg saw over 15 per cent voters casting their ballot. Chadoora recorded 15.30 per cent, Budgam 15.88 per cent, Khan Sahib 16.85, Charari Sharief 13.54 per cent, Tral 5.41 per cent, Pampore 12.28 per cent, Pulwama 7.62 and Rajpora 13 per cent, the officials said.
Police said a petrol bomb was hurled by unidentified men at a polling station in Gulmarg constituency. No casualties were reported in the incident.
Barring this incident, polling across all 16 constituencies of the state, was going on peacefully.
Security arrangements in all the three districts have been strengthened in the wake of Friday’s violence in which 21 persons including 11 security personnel and eight militants were killed in four incidents in the Valley.
All eyes are on Uri and Tral constituencies, which were hit by militant violence ahead of the polls. The first two phases of elections in the state saw a record turnout of over 70 per cent, with voters ignoring boycott calls by separatists and militant outfits.
The stakes are high for Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as
it held nine of the sixteen Assembly constituencies which have an electorate of 13.69 lakh electors, including 6.51 lakh women.
A total of 144 candidates are in the fray including 10 other sitting MLAs. 1,781 polling stations have been set up in the area.
Omar, who chose to contest from Beerwah in Budgam instead of his family bastion of Ganderbal, hopes that some of the recent steps taken by his government for the area will help him sail through in the constituency which was won by PDP candidates in the last two elections.
Omar, who is seeking a second term in the Assembly, faces a stiff challenge from sitting PDP MLA Mohammad Shafi Wani and Congress nominee Nazir Ahmad Khan, whose father Sarfaraz Khan had won from Beerwah in 2002 elections as a PDP candidate.
PDP represents nine of the 16 seats while the ruling NC holds only four. Congress and Peoples Democratic Front won one seat each in the last polls while one seat went to Independent.
While seven assembly seats fall in Baramulla district, five are in Budgam and four in Pulwama. *(AGENCIES)

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