The morning’s shy trickle of voters on Wednesday gradually changed into small queues in rural areas of Anantnag assembly constituency in Jammu and Kashmir where chief minister Mehbooba Mufti is contesting but the turnout in urban areas was very low.
Voting started at 7am and will end at 6pm. Votes will be counted on June 25 and results announced the same day.
In both the urban and rural segments, women voters outnumbered men, officials said. An Election Commission official put the voter turnout at noon at 20% -- compared to a poor 4% in the first one hour.
At the Khanabal High School in Anantnag , where two polling centres have been set up, women in ‘burqa’ formed the bulk of voters. The story was the same at Rambirpora, Krangsoo, Kehribal and several other places.
DEFYING SEPARATISTS’ CALL TO BOYCOTT POLL
It seemed women were determined to defy the separatists’ call to boycott the elections.
After Mehbooba was sworn in as the first woman chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir on April 4, it became mandatory for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader to become a member of either house of the bicameral legislature.
Anantnag was represented in the 87-member assembly by her father and late chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed till he passed away on January 7.
TIGHT SECURITY AMID BANDH
Police and paramilitary forces were deployed in strength to prevent militants from interfering with the election process.
The army was deployed, in what is known as “area domination” duty, in the periphery of the constituency to ensure an incident-free poll.
There was a complete shutdown in Anantnag town following the boycott call of the separatists.
Wednesday was declared a public holiday in the constituency.
Mehbooba visited a number of polling stations on Wednesday but refused to speak to the media.
At Rambirpora polling station, where journalists sought her comments, she said: “I will speak to you when I have something to say.”
There are seven other candidates in the fray including Hilal Ahmad Shah of the Congress and Iftikhar Hussain Misgar of the National Conference.
After voting, few people had doubts about Mehbooba’s victory.
“We know she will not solve international issues but will definitely address unemployment, education, healthcare and give us better roads, and she will also empower women,” said Shafeeqa Begum, 45. Shafeeqa, however, believes -- like many others -- that a narrow victory margin could dent Mehbooba’s image as a popular chief minister whose PDP has its base in the south Kashmir districts of Anantnag, Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam.
The Muftis belong to the neighbouring Bijbehara town.