J&K assembly election: Kashmiris reject poll boycott calls with record 71% turnout - The Times of India SRINAGAR: In a strong rebuff to separatists, Kashmiris and residents of Jammu lined up in thousands outside polling booths, declaring their support for democracy and posting the highest turnout in the 15 seats that polled on Tuesday since the last delimitation in 1995. The turnout of 71.3% was much higher than in 2008 when the same seats had polled 65%. The seats had registered 52.6% voting in the Lok Sabha polls earlier this year. Some seats in the valley recorded more votes than Jammu and Ladakh . A heavy 75% turnout was recorded in three Bandipora constituencies in north Kashmir. Describing the elections as "flawless", deputy election commissioner Vinod Zutshi said there wasn't a single "vitiating" incident save minor clashes. He attributed the turnout to "the combined efforts of everyone". Hailing successful polling in 15 seats of Jammu & Kashmir, deputy election commissioner Vinod Zutshi said there were no untoward incidents. "There were a few incidents of bursting of fire crackers in Bandipora, nothing else," he said. Zutshi attributed the high turnout to "the combined efforts of everyone, along with good security and voter awareness efforts of the Election Commission". There were at least 43 chopper sorties to airlift personnel and security to remote areas, Zutshi said. Voter enthusiasm was best showcased when a centenarian, Noor Bin, voted in Ramban, he said. Independent sources, however, said an explosive went off minutes after voting began at a polling station in Bandipora. Another blast was reported at Naidkhi in Sonawari, north Kashmir, with eyewitnesses saying it was a petrol bomb thrown by miscreants to scare away voters. But that did not deter them, they said. The sense in some quarters that the Omar government would get washed away in the elections because of mishandling of September floods gained traction as the turnout rose through the day. Kashmiri separatists said the turnout was a result of large security presence but political analysts believed they were soft on election boycott given BJP's presence, particularly in the Valley. Rejecting this, hardliner Syed Ali Geelani said, "The government conducted these elections on the strength of security forces," adding that the police had said they would crush anybody trying to disrupt polling and they proved it. However, 88-year-old Sanaullah Dar of Theru village in Ganderbal said, "We consciously chose to remain with India in 1947. Voting is our right and I voted for my candidate and so did my family." There was perceptible anti-incumbency mood with many voters angry about the floods and the general drift in the Omar Abdullah government which, voters said, also failed to generate employment and growth. Twenty-year-old Altaf Ahmed of Kangan said, "I am not scared of militants or separatists. I am not bothered by their boycott calls. I am disgusted with joblessness and I voted for employment." Saying she was satisfied with a peaceful first round, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said the trends showed an overwhelming desire for change with PDP emerging as the favourite across Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. "The people are participating in this election to write a new script in the state's political history and the trends show they are enthusiastically voting for change," Mehbooba told an election rally in Langate. "I also appreciate the EC and the administration for the smooth conduct of the first phase," Mehbooba said, adding that such turnout would not only vote out the "anarchist NC-Congress coalition" but also keep divisive forces at bay. "On behalf of the party leadership, I assure the people that we won't let them down and do justice with their mandate," Mehbooba said, adding that the voting pattern also showed that new age voters voted for real issues.