J&K Polling begins in Baramulla Lok Sabha seat


Srinagar : Polling began on Monday in Jammu and Kashmir’s Baramulla Lok Sabha constituency where 22 candidates, including former chief minister Omar Abdullah, are in the fray, officials said.

Voting began at 7 am. People were seen lining up outside the polling stations to exercise their franchise in some areas of the constituency, the officials said.

The constituency is spread over 18 assembly segments in the three districts of Kupwara, Baramulla and Bandipora, and also includes two segments of Budgam that were included on the recommendations of the delimitation commission two years ago, they said.

Voting is scheduled to end at 6 pm.

More than 500 centenarians are among the 17.37 lakh voters eligible to exercise their franchise, with political observers expecting a high turnout on the back of the huge crowds that thronged election rallies and roadshows.

The first major political battle post the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019 will decide the fate of Abdullah, the National Conference vice-president, and 21 others in the fray.

Fourteen Independent candidates — two of whom are women — are among the hopefuls from the north Kashmir seat, which has traditionally returned a higher turnout compared to areas in central and south Kashmir.

Abdullah faces the biggest challenge from separatist-turned-politician and former minister Sajad Lone, who heads the People’s Conference.

However, it is the presence of jailed Awami Ittehad Party leader and former MLA Abdul Rashid Sheikh alias Engineer Rashid that has spiced up the contest.

The People’s Democratic Party has fielded former Rajya Sabha member Mir Mohammad Fayaz while Muneer Khan, the brother of jailed separatist leader Nayeem Ahmad Khan, is contesting as an Independent.

In 2019, the constituency recorded 34.17 per cent polling with Kupwara district registering the highest turnout at 51.7 per cent, followed by Bandipora at 31.8 per cent and Baramulla at 24 per cent.

The officials said there are 8,75,831 (8.75 lakh) male and 8,62,000 (8.62 lakh) female voters, besides 34 from the third gender. More than 17,000 voters are persons with disabilities. There are 527 persons above the age of 100 who are eligible to exercise their franchise.

More than 8,000 polling staff, including reserves, have been deployed at 2,103 polling stations to ensure smooth conduct of the polls, the officials said and added that 28 polling stations are located in the border areas of Kupwara and Baramulla districts.

There are 18 polling booths managed by women, 17 manned by specially-abled persons and 18 by youngsters. To spread messages on the environment, the authorities have also set up 21 green polling booths.

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