There was more enthusiasm among elderly voters who turned up at the polling stations Thursday morning, while the young were not very visible as polling in Jammu and Kashmir's Jammu-Poonch parliamentary constituency got off to a slow start on Thursday.
According to reports reaching election officials here, aged people were reaching polling booths at several places across the constituency, comprising 20 assembly segments - the highest in all of the state's six parliamentary seats.
At Bowani polling station in Nowshera, about 150 km north of Jammu, 104-year-old Munshi Ram turned up to vote. Ishar Das and Hansraj, both in their late 90s, were also among those who exercised their franchise in the early hours of voting at the same polling station.
Kamla Devi, 102, came to vote at Gurah Brahamana polling station in Akhnoor, 30 km north of Jammu. She was exercising her right to franchise for the 20th time in various parliamentary and assembly elections. However, she declined to disclose for whom she voted. Among the first time voters was 20-year-old Neesha Devi, who cast her vote at the Government Boys City Middle School in R.S. Pura, 30 km west of Jammu.
In Jammu, the state's winter capital, the morning sky was overcast and residents took it easy on an extra holiday, while security forces kept their fingers on the trigger as polling began.
Polling started at 7 a.m. with securitymen out in strength to guard all polling stations and other parts of the Jammu constituency. But by and large the polling stations in this city were bereft of voters.
This was in sharp contrast to the November-December polls to the state assembly, where voter enthusiasm had been significantly high. Sham Sunder, a tea vendor who had braved the chill of December and had been the first to vote in Nai Basti area of Jammu, was still at home on Thursday. "I will vote later in the day," he told IANS.
Even the party activists were not very enthusiastic, a reflection of the lacklustre campaign for the parliamentary elections, where the largest campaign rallies did not see a turnaround of over 5,000. The average street corner meeting had 10-15 listeners. Reports from nearby villages also spoke of a relaxed mood.
The Jammu-Poonch constituency with a total electorate of 1,721, 696 voters is among the 124 constituencies across the country where voting is being held in the first of the five-phase parliamentary polls.
Congress candidate Madan Lal Sharma, who is seeking re-election from the constituency was going door to door in his native Akhnoor area with his younger brother Sham Lal Sharma, who represents the segment in the assembly and is the health minister in the National Conference-Congress coalition government. They were urging people to vote early.
Sharma faces the Bharatiya Janata Party's Leela Karan Sharma, the former convener of the Shri Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti (SASS) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)'s T.S. Bajwa. There are 21 candidates in all.