Fifth and final phase of polling for state assembly elections in J&K and Jharkhand came to an end on Saturday evening peacefully.
Jammu and Kashmir registered its highest turn-out in assembly elections in the last 25 years with an estimated 65 percent of voters casting their votes.
Jharkhand, which also went to the polls along with J and K, broke all previous polling records to witness over 66 percent of turn-out in the five phases, bettering the previous mark of 54.2 percent in the 2004 assembly poll.
Amid tight security, polling began on Saturday morning for the fifth and final round of state assembly elections in J&K and Jharkhand. Polling will be for 20 assembly seats in J&K, and 16 seats in Jharkhand.
In Jammu and Kashmir, 213 candidates, including the Deputy Chief Minister, ministers Sham Lal Sharma, Raman Bhalla, Manohar Lal Sharma, Ajay Sadhotra, former MP and Ministers Lal Singh and Talib Hussain (both BJP) are in the fray.
After a record turnout of voters in the previous four phases, particularly in Kashmir Valley, there is an expectation of high voter turnout in the seats spread across Jammu, Kathua and Rajouri districts of Jammu region.
As many as 18,28,904 eligible voters, comprising 9,59,011 men and 8,69,891 women, are eligible to exercise their franchise at 2,366 polling stations set up across the three border districts.
BJP has high stakes in this phase as it had got 10 seats in 2008 Assembly elections followed by Congress with 5 seats, NC 2, PDP 1 and two seats going to Independents.
Shant Manu, Divisional Commissioner, Jammu Division, said that 400 security companies (40,000 security men) have been deployed for today’s polling apart from regular deployment of police forces.
Security arrangements along the Indo-Pak border have been strengthened in the three border districts of Jammu region
with troops put on alert for the polls.
“Security grid along the Indo-Pak border has been put on alert. Multi-tier security has been put in place”, the Divisional Commissioner said.
The saffron party fired up its campaigning with all top guns led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Smriti Irani, Uma Bharti, J P Nadda, Jitendra Singh and star campaigners Vinod Khanna, Hema Malini, and Navjot Singh Sidhu wooing voters.
Modi addressed four rallies in Rajouri, Jammu, Billawar and Kathua Assembly segments and appealed to the people to give BJP a majority to develop the state and oust “dynastic” rule of NC, PDP and Congress.
Senior leaders of all parties campaigned for their candidates. Among the prominent campaigners were Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, his predecessors Congress’s Ghulam Nabi Azad and PDP’s Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Mehbooba Mufti.
While BJP led by Modi raised the issue of corruption, dynastic politics and development, it remained silent on the controversial issues of abrogation of Article 370. The party released a vision document but did not release any manifesto.
Ruling National Conference, which talked about development and hit out at BJP over divisive politics, said it would oppose any attempt to “tamper” with Article 370.
Congress promised equitable development for the three regions of the state.
In Jharkhand, due to security concerns voting began at 7 am and end early at 3 pm in all the seats – Rajmahal, Borio (ST), Barhait (ST), Litipara (ST), Pakur, Maheshpur (ST), Sikaripara (ST), Nala, Jamtara, Dumka (ST), Jama (ST), Jarmundi, Sarath, Poreyahat, Godda and Mahagama.
There are nine general seats and seven reserved for tribals.
In all 36,90,069 voters, including 17,84,486 women, are eligible to exercise their franchise to choose among 208 candidates, 16 of them women.
Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren and Assembly Speaker Shashank Sekhar Bhokta are among the 208 candidates. Soren is contesting from two seats—-Dumka and Barhait.
The BJP has nominated 15 candidates, including one women, in the final phase of the elections.
The Bahujan Samaj Party has fielded 12 candidates, including one woman while the Congress has 11 candidates, including two women.
Babulal Marandi’s Jharkhand Vikas Morcha has nominated 15 and the RJD six candidates.
The CPI (M) has nominated six while the CPI has four contestants in the fray and the NCP two candidates.
A total of 22,240 polling personnel, 16 general observers, 10 expenditure observers, 3 police observers, one awareness observer and 1,050 micro observers are deployed to oversee the democratic exercise in Jharkhand.
Counting of votes will be on 23rd December.