Kathua (Jammu and Kashmir), Dec 13 (IANS) Despite the winter chill, people came out in large numbers to cast their votes Saturday as polling for the fifth phase of elections to the 87-member assembly began in five constituencies of Kathua district, the gateway of Jammu and Kashmir.
The polling began at 8 a.m. but voters began queing up much earlier in this town of more than 50,000 people as 20 of the 66 candidates are from here. The candidates and their supporters knocked at the doors of voters early Saturday, urging them to cast their votes at the earliest.
Kathua district's five constituencies - Bani, Basholi, Billawar, Hiranagar and Katrhua - have 406,000 voters. The district spreads till the districts of Doda and Udhampur in the northeast and has Pakistan on the west. It also borders Himachal Pradesh and Punjab.
Old friends Lal Singh and Babu Singh, who helped each other during the 2002 polls, are now bitter rivals in the region.
Babu Singh had won the election in 2002 from this mostly urban constituency as an independent but joined the Congress as its associate member and became a minister in the coalition government. This time, however, the party denied him a ticket and he is again contesting as an independent candidate.
Lal Singh had contested and won from Basholi constituency in the same district in 2002. But he had vacated his seat on his election to the Lok Sabha in 2004. Now his wife Kanta Andotra is contesting from the constituency on a Congress ticket.
The Congress had won Bani, Basholi and Hiranagar seats in 2002, while Billawar and Kathua had gone to independents. But this time the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and National Conference too are in the fray in a big way.
The residents of Kathua were active participants in the Amarnath land row that lasted for two months.
Inspector General of Police (Jammu Zone) K. Rajendra Kumar was personally monitoring the security situation in the district.
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