Moderate voting in Jammu amid clashes (Third Lead)

Jammu, April 16 (Inditop) Amid high security and minor clashes between the supporters of rival political parties, 45 percent of about 1.7 million electorate cast their votes in the Jammu Lok Sabha constituency Thursday, officials said.

But the exact voter turnout would be known after the figures are collected from the polling booths located in remote border areas, particularly in the twin districts of Rajouri and Poonch districts.

The constituency is spread over four border districts of Samba, Jammu, Rajouri and Poonch.

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Congress workers clashed in Darhal in Rajouri district. 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 police official.

The voting that started with a low turnout, picked up in the late morning hours.

“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,” an official spokesman said.

Women voters outnumbered men.

At stake is the political fate of BJP nominee and former convener 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. The Congress candidate is being supported by the ruling alliance partner National Conference.

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

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”.

After the row was resolved almost six months ago, the Amarnath land dispute seems to be on the minds of some people.

“Leela Karan is the face of our resistance against the Kashmiri domination. We are indebted to him. (I) have voted for him,” said Gandharb Singh, 30, a farmer in Suchetgarh, a border belt, 35 km west of Jammu.

However, some voters in Jammu city and its suburbs felt that the two-month long agitation led by Sharma was a betrayal.

They were unhappy over Sharma joining politics and contesting elections though during the agitation he had pledged not to jump into politics.

“It is a shame that he is contesting election,” said Mahendra Gupta, a shopkeeper in the city.