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J-K Polls: 70 per cent voting in first phase

Srinagar/Jammu: Defying separatists' election boycott call and braving cold weather, voters turned out in large numbers today to record over 70 per cent polling without any incident in 15 constituencies in the first of the five phase polls in Jammu and Kashmir.

Election Commission officials said the poll percentage figures released so far were tentative and that it was likely to go up by two to three per cent as voting was going on at some places even after closure of voting at 4 pm. Polling began at 8 am in cold wave conditions.

A 61 per cent voter turnout was recorded in the 2008 Assembly polls for these 15 seats6 in Jammu division, 5 in Kashmir Valley and four in Ladakh. Today's polling was spread over seven districts.

"Polling has gone absolutely peaceful without any incident. It was 100 per cent flawless polls and there was not a single incident which vitiates poll process," Deputy Election Commissioner Vinod Zutshi told reporters in Delhi.

Dealing a serious blow to separatist politics, thousands of voters had lined up before polling stations with nearly 10.52 lakh voters being eligible to vote.

Separatist groups like all the factions of Hurriyat Conference and JKLF have called for a boycott of the polls and a general strike as well.

A total of 123 candidates including seven ministers were in the fray with the ruling coalition partners National Conference and Congress and the Opposition People's Democratic Party(PDP) and BJP fighting for the spoils.

In five Kashmir Valley constituencies, two in Ganderbal district recorded 68 per cent turnout an increase of 13 per cent from 2008 assembly polls while three in Bandipora district recorded 70.30 per cent, registering an increase of 11 per cent.

In six seats of Jammu division, two constituencies in Doda district recorded a turn out of 76 per cent while it was 70 per cent each for the four seats in Kishtwar and Ramban districts.

While there was increase of eight per cent in Doda district and nearly four per cent in Ramban district, Kishtwar district recorded a drop of over three per cent.

The four constituencies of Ladakh region, which normally witnesses high voter turnout, marked a decrease in number of voters exercising their franchise.

In two constituencies of Leh district, the turn out was 57 per cent, down from 61.88 per cent in 2008 assembly polls and substantially down from 68.23 per cent registered during the Lok Sabha polls earlier this year.

In Kargil district, 59 per cent voters cast their votes against 72.90 per cent in 2008 elections.

Early morning chill and fog failed to dampen the spirits of the voters who had assembled at the polling stations an hour before the scheduled start of voting.

The voting time had to be extended in several polling stations to allow those voters, who were already inside the polling station premises, to cast their votes.

Uproar in Lok Sabha over black money issue

New Delhi: Stepping up attack on the government on the black money issue, Trinamool Congress MPs today blocked the main entrance of Parliament and derailed House proceedings, leading to adjournment of Lok Sabha till 12 pm.

As soon as the house met for the day, TMC members, who were supported by members of the Janata DalUnited (JDU) and the Samajwadi Party, demanded a suspension of the question hour.

When Speaker Sumitra Mahajan did not agree to this, they moved near the speaker's podium carrying black umbrellas with "Kaala Dhan Waapas Lao" (Bring back black money) written on them, forcing her to adjourn the house till 12 pm

Earlier, TMC MPs, who had boycotted an allparty meeting called by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu, shouted antigovernment slogans.

Majority of TMC MPs including Dinesh Trivedi and Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar were at the gate shouting "Modi tanashai nahin chalegi" (Dicatorship will not be tolerated), "kala dhan wapas lao" (bring back black money) among others.

They said they will raise the black money issue on the floor of Parliament and seek the support of likeminded parties on this issue.

"BJP had promised that it would bring back black money after coming to power. It made a false promise," they said.

Gadkari flags off Delhi-Kathmandu bus service

New Delhi: The first ever bus service from India to Nepal was flagged off today to provide an alternative mode of travel to commuters from the two countries, with the government promising similar services for other SAARC nations.

The bus was flagged off by Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari here at a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in Kathmandu to attend 18th SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) Summit from November 2627.

While Modi has promised to foster better ties with neighbours, there are expectations that some concrete agreements could be inked during his current Nepal visit in the areas of connectivity and development cooperation.

Launching the luxury bus service from the Indian side at Ambedkar Stadium, which will be run by Delhi Transport Corporation and would take 30 hours to reach from Delhi to Kathmandu, Gadkari said: "India and Nepal share old cultural ties, which will be further strengthened. There are over one lakh retired military persons who get their pensions in Nepal."

Terming the occasion "historic", he said, "Government is working to launch similar services for other SAARC nations. Delhi Lt Governor Najeeb Jung was present on the occasion.

This is the second international bus service being operated by the DTC, which has been running DelhiLahore International service since 1999.

DTC will run a Volvo and Mercedes buses daily on the DelhiKathmandu route, which will cover a distance of 1,250 km to reach Kathmandu in 30 hours from Delhi. The fare of the bus has been kept Rs 2,300 per passenger.

It will travel via Yamuna Express Highway, Agra, Firozabad, Kanpur, Lucknow, Gorakhpur and Sunauli. Thereafter, it will enter Nepal territory to reach Kathmandu.

The service will be a direct one and will neither pick up nor drop any passenger anywhere in between. A provision of advance booking has been kept. The passengers will have to carry proof of identification while purchasing the ticket.

The Cabinet had earlier approved the signing of bilateral agreement for the regulation of passenger traffic between India and Nepal on the sidelines of the Summit.
 


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