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Half of Udhampur votes (Fourth Lead)

IANS  |  Udhampur 

Voting picked up in all the six districts of Jammu and Kashmir's Udhampur Lok Sabha constituency, where 50 percent of the ballots had been cast by Thursday afternoon, an official said.

More voters lined up to exercise their franchise in almost all the polling stations in the six districts of Udhampur, Reasi, Kathua, Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban.

In Kathua district 55 percent, Udhampur 53 percent, Kishtwar 47 percent, Reasi 54 percent, Doda 37 percent and Ramban 49 percent votes had been polled up to 2 p.m. today.

Voters in far-flung areas of Ramban district were less enthusiastic about casting their ballots than those in economically better-off areas.

Gul Muhammad, 75, cast his vote at the Ramsu high school polling station in Ramban.

"I have been voting all my life. My vote has improved the economic condition of politicians, but mine remains unchanged. I have again cast my vote today, hoping that things will change, but I have little hope," he said.

In comparison, 103-year-old Masu Ram who cast his vote at the Hira Nagar polling station in Kathua district, said he came to exercise his democratic right fearing this could be his last chance to do so, given his old age.

"This could be my last vote in the Lok Sabha elections. I cannot afford to let it go waste," Masu Ram told reporters.

Voters at one polling station in Bani area of Kathua told reporters they were boycotting the election because nobody has paid any attention to the development of their area.

"No development, no vote," people said.

There was no report of any untoward incident in the Lok Sabha seat which has some of the most far flung hilly areas as its voting segments.

Mountainous areas of Doda, Kishtwar, Ramban, Reasi and Udhampur were once believed to be infested with militants who had been issuing diktats against people's participation in the election process.

The voter turnout indicates the people have outlived such pressures.

Areas like Kaskoot, Lamber and Asher in Bannihal assembly segments were once seen as hotbeds of separatist sentiment as the residents in these remote areas are ethnically strongly linked with the Valley.

All these places had Thursday recorded more than 50 percent polling up to 2 p.m. as lines of voters continued to swell at these places.

Balloting was sluggish in the morning in this Lok Sabha seat as just 10 percent votes were cast during the first two hours.

There are 13 candidates in the fray in Udhampur, but the main contest is between union minister Ghulam Nabi Azad of the Congress, BJP candidate Jitender Singh and Arshad Malik of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

There are 14.38 lakh voters in the constituency, including Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs who are voting at 2,051 polling stations Thursday.

Voting ends at 6 p.m.

First Published: Thu, April 17 2014. 15:54 IST