Campaigning for LS polls concludes in J and K

Srinagar, May 23 (PTI) The high-pitch electioneering for the ongoing Lok Sabha polls ended in Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday as the campaigning for the Anantnag-Rajouri constituency came to a close in the evening.

The newly-carved out Lok Sabha seat in the south Kashmir-Pir Panjal region is scheduled to go to polls on Saturday, marking the conclusion of voting in Jammu and Kashmir as polling has already been held in the four other constituencies of the Union Territory.

The Anantnag-Rajouri constituency has 20 candidates in the fray, including People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, who is hoping to return to Parliament following her defeat in the 2019 Lok sabha polls.

With record-high polling in Srinagar and Baramulla, political observers feel that the south Kashmir constituency will also register a higher-than-expected voter turnout.

The aggregate turnout in the four Lok Sabha seats of Jammu and Kashmir that have already gone to polls was around 59 per cent.

The polling in Anantnag-Rajouri was earlier scheduled for May 7 but was deferred by the Election Commission (EC) due to inclement weather in the region.

Authorities had received more than 2,200 applications from the contesting candidates and political parties, seeking permission for various electioneering activities.

While 1,920 applications for rallies, roadshows and meetings were approved, 303 pleas were rejected on various grounds.

Mufti is facing a tough challenge from prominent Gujjar leader and former minister Mian Altaf Ahmad, who is the National Conference (NC) candidate.

Apni Party’s Zafar Iqbal Manhas will be hoping to turn the table on both the PDP and the NC after he managed to get the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) support in the Pir Panjal region.

The Democratic Progressive Azad Party (DPAP) of former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad has fielded Mohammad Saleem Parray from the seat.

According to poll authorities, the fate of the 20 candidates will be decided by more than 18.36 lakh voters of Anantnag-Rajouri.

A total of 18,36,576 voters are enrolled in the five districts of Kulgam, Anantnag, Poonch, Shopian and Rajouri of the parliamentary constituency, including 9,33,647 male and 9,02,902 female and 27 third-gender voters.

Around 18,000 differently-abled people and 540 people aged above 100 years are eligible to cast their ballots.

The EC has set up 2,338 polling stations across the Anantnag-Rajouri constituency. Four election staff, including the presiding officer, will be stationed in every polling booth. In all, more than 9,000 polling staff, including reserves, will be deployed.

There are 19 border polling stations in Rajouri and Poonch.

Polling will be held from 7 am to 6 pm and before that, there shall be a mock poll in the presence of polling agents. The voting will continue after 6 pm if voters are found standing in queues outside polling booths.

Seventeen polling booths (“pink” polling stations) will be managed by women, 15 by differently-abled people and eight by youngsters. Also, there will be 15 “green” polling stations to spread the message about the environment.

The purpose behind these special polling stations is to spread awareness among certain sections of the society, such as women, differently-abled and first-time voters, to motivate them to come forward and exercise their right to vote.

All the polling stations in Anantnag-Rajouri will have CCTV cameras for live webcasting to the control rooms set up at the district and CEO office. The cameras will be positioned in such a way so that they do not violate the secrecy of vote.

There are a few polling stations that fall in communication-shadow areas. Suitable alternative arrangements have been put in place in such areas by providing satellite phones, wireless sets and special runners.

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