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Expect high security bandobast for Srinagar LS polls

Press Trust of India

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Srinagar, Apr 14: Two years after Srinagar Lok Sabha bypolls made news for the wrong reasons, the security arrangements will be put to test in this constituency with over 12 lakh voters on April 18.
The Srinagar Lok Sabha bypoll, necessitated after PDP leader Tariq Hamid Karra resigned from the lower house of Parliament, was marred by violence and saw the lowest ever voter turnout of 7.2 per cent.
Nine persons were killed in security forces’ action against protestors in different parts of the constituency and an Army officer used a shawl weaver as a human shield on polling day.
This year, stringent security measures have been put in place to prevent any untoward incidents. Additional security personnel have been deployed in the three districts — Srinagar, Ganderbal and Budgam — that make up the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat.
The fate of 10 candidates would be decided by 12,90,318 voters.
Prominent among these candidates is National Conference (NC) president and former chief minister Farooq Abdullah, who is in the running to enter the Lok Sabha for the fourth time.
Farooq faces a challenge from Aga Syed Mohsin of the Peoples Democratic Conference (PDP), who had contested as an independent in the 2014 parliamentary elections.
Political observers feel that by fielding a “weak” candidate in Mohsin, the PDP might have conceded the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat to Farooq.
However, PDP spokesperson Harbaksh Singh said it would be wrong to write off Mohsin just yet.
“He (Mohsin) had contested 2014 Lok Sabha polls and won a significant number of votes. He is a prominent Shia leader and scholar. Moreover, he has the backing of the biggest political party of the state,” Singh said.
Sajad Gani Lone-led Peoples Conference has emerged as an alternative to the NC and the PDP in regional politics.
The party, which moved out of the separatist camp in 2009 to return to electoral politics, won the mayoral elections to Srinagar Municipal Corporation.
The Peoples Conference has fielded businessman Irfan Ansari, a greenhorn, against Farooq.
Ansari, however, has his elder brother Imran Ansari, a prominent Shia leader and former minister, to guide him.
The 41-year-old businessman is confident that he will be able to connect with the youth.
“I represent the younger generation and I believe I am more in touch with the problems and realities faced by today’s generation and would be able take on the challenges confronting the generation of today,” Ansari said.
“I will not only be able to understand them well but also try and find a way to resolve those problems,” he added.
The BJP too has fielded a debutant, party spokesperson Khalid Jehangir, from the seat.
Jehangir was vice chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Project Construction Corporation, a state PSU, during the PDP-BJP coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Congress, an ally of the NC, has decided not to field any candidate against Farooq. It had not fielded any candidate opposite the NC patron even in 2017.
Farooq (83) has lost an election only once in his 42-year-long political career.
He was first elected to the Lok Sabha in 1980. However, he returned to state politics due to the failing health of NC founder and his father Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah in 1981.
Farooq first became the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir in September 1982, following his father’s death.
He remained part of state politics till 2002, when he passed on the torch to his son Omar Abdullah
However, Omar’s loss in the 2002 Assembly election put paid to his hopes and the NC, despite emerging as the single largest party, decided to sit in the opposition.
Farooq stayed away from active politics for several years but made a comeback after first winning Rajya Sabha elections in early 2009. He entered the Lok Sabha for the second time in May 2009.
As many as 1,716 polling stations have been set up in Srinagar.
For migrant voters of the constituency, 26 polling stations have been set up including 21 in Jammu, one in Udhampur and four in New Delhi.


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Bijbehara: 40 polling booths with zero votes

Mubashir Bukhari

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Bijbehara, Apr 23: Home turf of former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, the Bijbehara assembly segment under the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat, reported highest concentration of polling stations where zero votes were cast.

Among the 65 booths in Anantnag where zero votes were cast, 40 were located in Bijbehara, one of the six assembly constituencies where voting took place in the third phase of the Lok Sabha elections Tuesday.

People cast their votes in 714 polling stations in Anantnag. Bijbehara, the home constituency of PDP president Mufti, had 120 polling booths set up for a population of 93,289 people.

 

A total of 1,893 electorate or 2 per cent exercised their franchise when the polling ended at 4 pm. The voting time for the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat was reduced in view of security considerations. The Baramulla Lok Sabha seat, where voting took place in the first phase, saw 17 polling stations with zero while the Srinagar Parliamentary seat, which went to polls in the second phase, recorded zero votes in 90 booths.

Polling in Anantnag, which has 16 assembly seats, has been divided into three phases. The first phase was completed on Tuesday while remaining two will be held on April 29 and May 6. The decision for staggered polling was taken keeping in view the security situation in South Kashmir which has seen many encounters between security forces and militants.

On February 14, over 40 CRPF personnel were killed in a miliant attack in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district.

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Clubbing of booths kept voters away

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Apr 23:  The clubbing of the polling booths in Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency Tuesday discouraged many voters, who preferred to stay at home rather than walking long distances to cast their votes.  

District Anantnag, which went for polls first in the three-phased schedule Tuesday, recorded 13.63 voter turnouts in six segments including Anantnag, Dooru, Kokernag, Shangus, Bijbehara and Pahalgam.

Scores of the voters said that many gave up their plans to cast vote after authorities announced clubbing of the polling booths in the constituency.

 

In Lisser Chawalgam village of Kokernag segment, at least three polling stations catering to different locations were accommodated in a local higher secondary school.

 It included polling station of Shalnaad village as well, which is at least three kilometers away from the station.  

Those who casted their votes claimed that they had to enter secretly into the booth as the area had witnessed stone pelting.

“More people could have come to vote if the locations of the polling booths were not changed at the last moment. Many women didn’t cast their votes as they too had to travel kilometres to reach to the polling station,” said a voter, who had come from Shalnaad to cast his vote at higher secondary school Lisser.

Similarly polling booths in rural areas of Anantnag, Pahalgam too were clubbed, which reportedly affected the voting percentage of these areas.

“South Kashmir usually witnesses low voting percentage. The change in the location of polling booths has further the participation,” said a polling officer.

National Conference Candidate for Anantnag, Retired Justice Hasnain Masoodi, told The Kashmir Monitor that the clubbing of the polling booth was the main reason behind the low voting percentage in many areas.

“The polling booths of Jeshnaad and Makawora have been accommodated in government buildings, which are five to eight kilometers away from these villages. It has made the entire voting exercise inconvenient for the people,” he said.

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) earlier also said that clubbing of the polling stations for Parliament elections in Jammu and Kashmir will affect the participation of people in the elections.

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Security bandobast not up to the mark: Mir

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Srinagar, Apr 23: The Congress Candidate from Anantnag Parliamentary Constituency Ghulam Ahmad Mir Tuesday conveyed his gratitude to voters for participating in polling in Anantnag and hoped that the people of other districts will follow suit.

Mir, in a statement, also expressed serious concern over the lack of security arrangements in Anantnag, saying that “the fool-proof security as was assured by the ECI were not visible on the ground, describing it as a lack of concern on the part of ECI.”

“I express my gratitude to voters for participating in polling in Anantnag,” he said saying that he was pleased to observe that the day has passed incident free.

 

Taking a jibe at ECI for lack of security arrangements in the district during polling, Mir said the required security arrangements were not seen on the ground in the Anantnag.

“The assurances of ECI with regard to fool-proof security arrangements have fallen flat, which was a matter of serious concern and should not be repeated in coming phases in South Kashmir,” he said.

Mir urged upon the ECI to look into the security aspect of south Kashmir and ensure that fool-proof security arrangements are put in place to ensure free, fair and incident-free elections.

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