Indian Jammu and Kashmir election sees high turnout

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Kashmiri nomad voters queue outside a polling station in Babanagri on November 25, 201Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Some 71% of the more than a million eligible voters cast their ballots on Tuesday

There has been a high voter turnout in the first round of polls in Jammu and Kashmir, where Indian PM Narendra Modi's BJP is trying to win power for the first time.

Some 71% of the more than a million eligible voters cast their ballots for 15 seats on Tuesday, authorities said.

Separatist hardliners had called for a boycott of the vote.

Voting for the Muslim-majority state's 87-seat assembly is being held in five phases with results due on 23 December.

Senior election official Vinod Zutshi told reporters that Tuesday's turnout was "probably the highest" recorded in the state. No incident of violence was reported.

The seats recorded a 61% turnout of voters in the last elections in 2008.

Analysts say the high turnout this time round is significant, as the hardliners' call for a boycott could help the BJP.

Hindus are a minority in Kashmir, but their votes become crucial if Muslims stay at home in protest on polling day.

"Yes I voted, because votes count and a boycott doesn't," government worker Bashir Mohammed told the AFP news agency.

The reasons for the high turnout is not yet clear - some analysts claim that Muslim voters have come out in larger numbers to stop the BJP from winning, while others say the high turnout could be simply seen as a vote for change, which could end up helping the opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP).

Two regional parties dominate politics in Indian-administered Kashmir - the governing National Conference and the PDP.

The BJP has never been a serious player and it has a non-existent base in the Muslim-dominated Kashmir Valley, given its hardline views on the state's tenuous relationship with India, correspondents say.

But under Mr Modi, who swept to power in the May general elections, the BJP is making an attempt to capture the state.