JEHANGIR ALI | 28 MARCH, 2019
No Road Shows, Kashmir Braces for Violence as Polling Days Approach
Five phase polling in Jammu and Kashmir #TCVotes
SRINAGAR: Amid simmering tensions in Kashmir Valley, the five-phased Lok Sabha elections will start from April 11 in Jammu and Kashmir,with former chief ministers Dr Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti among other prominent faces in the polling fray.
Even as mounting concerns over deteriorating security situation in the Valley have kept the candidates for LS polls on their toes and election campaigning is devoid of any festivity, the political arena has heated up already in the border state.
“Political parties as well as the candidates in the polling fray have been asked to avoid road shows. There are inputs that militants may try to carry out attacks on political rallies in order to disrupt the whole election process,” a senior police officer said.
The threat of militant attacks notwithstanding, campaigning has already begun in the Valley with the issues of state’s special status, the ongoing crackdown on separatists and their sympathisers, the relentless bloodshed in the last three years, the pervasive fear of the BJP under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Hindutva ideology harming the secular fabric of the state dominating the political discourses.
The state sends six MPs to the lower house of the parliament. The Peoples Democratic Party had won all three seats from Kashmir Valley while the BJP pocketed two seats from Jammu and one from Ladakh region in 2014 polls. In the subsequent state assembly elections, the two parties won majority seats and went on to form an unpopular government which collapsed last year.
Other than Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, the prominent faces in the polling fray include former union leader Qayoom Wani who will be fighting from Baramulla constituency on Peoples Democratic Party ticket against Sajad Lone led Peoples Conference’s Raja Aijaz, a former police officer, and National Conference’s Akbar Lone. The first phase of LS polls will be conducted on Baramulla and Jammu constituencies on April 11.
From Srinagar, Farooq Abdullah is likely to be re-elected as the PDP and PC have fielded low-key candidates from the Shia community, who will eat into each other’s vote bank, according to political observers. The BJP’s Khalid Jehangir too won’t be able to make much difference to the political equation on the all important constituency.
The constituency will go to polls in second phase on April 18 along with Udhampur from which the minister in PMO, Dr Jitendra Singh, will be seeking a reelection.
In the volatile south Kashmir’s Anantnag constituency, polls on which will be held in three phases due to security concerns, NC’s recent entrant and former judge, Hasnain Masoodi, will be in a direct contest with Mehbooba Mufti. The Congress party hasn’t announced any candidate from the seat yet but if the party’s state chief jumps into the polling fray, it will be tough for Mehbooba Mufti to make a comeback.
The polling for Anantnag will be held in three phases on April 23, April 29 and May 6. Polls for Ladakh constituency will be held on May 6 as well .
Given the precarious security situation, authorities are predicting a low voter turnout. Yesterday, a young man was shot dead by suspected militants in south Kashmir’s Shopian district, the fourth such incident this year. The police officer said the situation may turn even worse as the elections approach.
“There will be unprecedented security deployment to ensure that the elections remain peaceful and miscreants are not allowed to cause any disruption. For Baramulla constituency alone, more than 400 companies of central paramilitary forces will be deployed to prevent any untoward incident,” a senior police officer said.
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