JAMMU: Braving the winter chill, about one-fifth of the voters Saturday exercised their franchise in the initial hours in the last phase of the Jammu and Kashmir state assembly elections, an official said.
The Election Commission official said after a dull start, voters started to line up at many polling stations in Jammu, Kathua and Rajouri districts.
Nearly 18 percent voter turnout was recorded during the first two hours, he said. Polling started at 8 a.m. and will end at 4 p.m.
Polling is being held in 20 of 87 assembly constituencies. Over 18 lakh voters are eligible to decide the fate of 213 candidates.
At a model polling station in Gandhinagar area, arrangements have been made by the poll authorities to serve tea to the voters.
Adequate arrangements have been made in the polling stations lying close to the international border and Line of Control in Jammu district, Ajeet Kumar Sahu, district election officer, said.
Contingency arrangements have also been made to shift polling stations to safer locations if there is any incident of firing from across the border, Sahu said.
Security checkposts have also been set up to ensure that subversive elements are prevented from interfering with the democratic process, he added.
In Jammu East, Jammu West, Bishnah, Marh and Nagrota constituencies, considerable numbers of voters had turned up at the polling stations.
In the border constituencies of R.S. Pura, Suchetgarh and Akhnoor, voters came out in larger numbers compared with urban centres.
Women voters outnumbered men in Kathua district's Hiranagar border constituency.
In far-flung Bani and Billawar constituencies of Kathua, voting started on a low key although poll officials said the process would pick up as the fog lifts and the day warmed up.
In the four constituencies of Rajouri, Kalakote, Darhal and Nowshera in Rajouri district, voting was slow in the morning.
In Jammu district's Chhamb constituency, the majority of voters are farmers who also rare milch cattle besides tending their agricultural fields.
Even if you want to restrain your conversation to the day's voting and future expectations, the voters vent their anger before talking about anything else.
"You have seen this road? It has not be metalled nor black-topped since 1998. It has been the same for the last 18 years. What is true of the road is true of everything else here," said Pratap Singh, a taxi driver of Hamirpur village.
"Whatever the ultimate result of the assembly elections elsewhere, we are voting for change. Our lives have become hell due to border shelling and complete neglect by the people in power," Singh, 45, said.
The vote count takes place Dec 23.