35 percent voting in Jammu till noon amid clashes (Lead)

Jammu, April 16 (Inditop) Amid high security and stray incidents of clashes, voting for the parliamentary constituency of Jammu picked up in the afternoon, with more than 35 percent of the about 1.7 million voters having cast their votes in the first five and half hours of the polling, officials said.

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Congress workers clashed in Darhal assembly segment of the parliamentary constituency. The clashing groups caused a law and order situation which was defused after Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers fired in the air, according to reports received here. Three persons were injured in these clashes.

“We are verifying details of the incident,” said a senior police official in Jammu.

The voting that started with a low turnout, picked up in the late morning hours. “Till 12.30 p.m., overall percentage from all the 20 assembly segments of Jammu parliamentary constituency had crossed 35 percent,” said an official spokesman of the information department of the Jammu and Kashmir government.

“Long queues outside polling booths were seen in the rural areas of Bishnah, Ranbirsinghpura, Suchetgarh, and Akhnoor in Jammu district, while polling was picking up at a greater pace in the border districts of Rajouri and Poonch,” the spokesman said.

Women outnumbered men at the polling booths.

At stake is the political fate of BJP nominee and former convenor of Shri Amarnath Sangarsh Samiti Leela Karan Sharma who had led the land restoration agitation in the summer of 2008, and that of the Congress candidate Madan Lal Sharma, who is seeking re-election. Congress is being supported by the ruling alliance partner National Conference.

Besides these two main contenders, there are 19 other candidates including that of PDP, BSP, and the Jammu Kashmir National Panthers Party.

PDP leader Daman Bhasin alleged that Congress leaders in connivance with the state police were harassing his party’s supporters and voters. “There is brazen rigging going on at many places in Rajouri and Poonch.”

BJP candidate Leela Karan Sharma said that he hoped that the people would vote for him to “bring to an end the discrimination which they have been meted out for the past 60 years.”