The volatile Baramulla constituency of North Kashmir saw 39.6% voters defy the poll boycott call to exercise their franchise. The turnout is only a few notches below 2009’s 41.8%.
The turnout of voters in the constituency where the sitting MP of the ruling National Conference Shariffudin Shariq is being challenged by the PDP’s Muzaffar Beig, however, remained mixed.
While militancy-hit areas like Kupwara, Handwara and Sonawari and frontier areas like Uri and Tangdar saw brisk polling, Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru’s shadow hung over parts of Baramulla, especially the apple town of Sopore. Also the home town of hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Sopore registered a mere 1% polling.
Polling station No. 89 in Jagir village in Sopore had the maximum number of visitors, though none of them was among the registered 468 voters. The visitors comprised journalists and curious onlookers. The booth in Guru’s village saw a zero turnout. “This is a way of honouring his death,” Afzal's wife Tabasum Guru told Hindustan Times.
Giving the final breakup, chief electoral officer Umang Narula said that 39.6% of electors exercised their franchise in Baramulla Lok Sabha constituency comprising 63.19% in Kupwara, 25.04% in Baramulla and 35.65% in Bandipora districts. Meanwhile, 64% votes were cast in Leh and 65.8% in Kargil districts.
More than 30,000 securitymen were deployed in the constituency which has 1,616 polling stations. Narula said as many as 13,726 poll personnel were deployed in these constituencies during Wednesday’s phase of polling, adding that logistically the phase was challenging due to the remoteness of various areas.
Voting in Baramulla Lok Sabha constituency was considered to be “a serious challenge” by intelligence agencies. Of the total polling stations, 1,091 were declared hyper-sensitive and 455 sensitive. Only 70 were marked as normal by the Election Commission.
Polling was largely peaceful with a crude explosives device being found in the vicinity of Palhalan polling station on Wednesday morning. The police said the explosives were defused in time. Locals, however, claimed that it was a grenade attack that injured a CRPF jawan.