Jammu and Kashmir has recorded over 35 per cent turnout till 1 pm in Jammu and Baramulla constituencies, where voting is underway in the first phase of Lok Sabha elections, even as there were protests over defective EVMs in some areas, officials said. The two constituencies house over 33 lakh electorate.
The National Conference and the PDP alleged that uniformed personnel “coerced” people to vote for the BJP and that EVMs malfunctioned in some places with Congress button not working in Jammu’s Poonch area.
While the Jammu Lok Sabha constituency recorded 44.65 per cent turnout, Baramulla registered 22.3 per cent till 1 pm, the officials said.
Amid tight security, polling began at 7 am in the Jammu constituency and has been peaceful so far with voters in Samba, Jammu, Rajouri and Poonch turning out early morning to exercise their franchise, the officials said.
While Jammu district recorded 45.9 per cent polling, Samba registered highest 52.1 per cent, followed by Rajouri district with 44.8 per cent and Poonch 35.8 per cent till 1 pm, they said.
In the Baramulla seat, Kupwara district registered highest turnout of 30.8 per cent, followed by Bandipora (20.9), Baramulla (15.1) till 1 pm, while Kashmir migrants polled 19.36 per cent for Baramulla seat, they said.
Congress candidate from Jammu Raman Bhalla, who cast his vote in Jammu, alleged large scale EVM malfunction in Poonch and Mendhar belt of the constituency. He said that people have protested over the issue.
Former minister and senior Congress leader Shabir Khan told reporters in Rajouri that the defective EVMs have been sent to remote and rural areas of Rajouri and Poonch and people held protests. But nothing has been done to repair the machines, he alleged.
PDP president Mehbooba Mufti tweeted a video showing voters raising anti-BJP slogans after they were allegedly “roughed up” by BSF jawans for not voting for the saffron party.
“A voter at a polling booth in Jammu was manhandled by the BSF because he refused to cast his vote for BJP. Using armed forces at polling stations to coerce people to vote for the BJP shows their desperation & hunger to usurp power by hook or crook,” she said in her tweet.
In Rajouri and Poonch border district, people along the Line of Control came out in large numbers to exercise their franchise.
Union Minister Dr Jitendra Singh, who cast his vote in Gandhinagar, said there is an enthusiasm among the electorate.
The Jammu parliamentary constituency has the highest number of 24 candidates among all the seats.
The constituency, spread over four districts of Jammu, Samba, Poonch and Rajouri and covering 20 assembly segments, was won by BJP’s Jugal Kishore in the 2014 general elections. He defeated veteran Congress leader and two-time MP Madan Lal Sharma by a margin of over 2.57 lakh votes.
Kishore is facing a tough contest this time as the National Conference is extending support to Congress candidate and former minister Raman Bhalla, while the PDP has decided not to field any candidate from the Jammu region to ensure that the secular votes are not divided.
The Jammu parliamentary seat has the highest number of 20,05,730 lakh voters, including 9,64,834 women and 20 transgenders, officials said, adding 2,740 polling stations, including dozens near the LoC and the International Border (IB), have been set up for the polling.