Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha seat: Parties make last-ditch effort to woo electors, 18.3 lakh voters to decide fate of 20 candidates today - Hindustan Times
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Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha seat: Parties make last-ditch effort to woo electors, 18.3 lakh voters to decide fate of 20 candidates today

ByMir Ehsan, Srinagar
May 25, 2024 05:06 AM IST

As the Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha seat will go to the polls on Saturday, all eyes will be on the voter turnout that could play an important role in the poll outcome of the constituency. Twenty candidates are trying their luck from the seat, however, there will be a triangular contest between PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, NC candidate former minister Mian Altaf and the Apni Party candidate former legislator Zaffar Iqbal Manhas.

As the Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha seat will go to the polls on Saturday, all eyes will be on the voter turnout that could play an important role in the poll outcome of the constituency.

Security personnel stand guard as preparations for the sixth phase of the Lok Sabha polls are underway, in Anantnag on Friday. (ANI)
Security personnel stand guard as preparations for the sixth phase of the Lok Sabha polls are underway, in Anantnag on Friday. (ANI)

Twenty candidates are trying their luck from the seat, however, there will be a triangular contest between PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, NC candidate former minister Mian Altaf and the Apni Party candidate former legislator Zaffar Iqbal Manhas.

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The constituency which is spread across the Pir Panjal range includes Rajouri and Poonch areas in the Jammu region along with Anantnag in south Kashmir.

The BJP hasn’t fielded any candidate from the seat but is supporting Apni Party candidate Zaffar Iqbal Manhas which the saffron party leaders are calling a strategy to “end the dynastic rule” in J&K.

With 18.30 lakh voters, there will be 2,338 polling stations in the parliamentary seat and many of the polling stations have been declared as sensitive polling stations. Last time the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat had witnessed very low turnout of 8.76% votes and the National Conference candidate, Hasnain Masoodi, won the seat while Congress candidate, then J&K Congress president Ghulam Ahmad Mir stood runner up and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti remained on the third spot.

Mehbooba is vying for a crucial win in her fourth parliamentary election from the Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha seat. However, all political parties are hopeful that the voter turnout could be even higher than the Baramulla Lok Sabha seat which recorded around 59% polling on Monday.

“As south Kashmir goes to the polls tomorrow, I appeal to all of you to ensure you cast your vote for a voice to represent you. A voice that fights for your future and identity,” Mehbooba Mufti released a video message for voters on Friday.

On the last day of campaigning, former chief ministers Ghulam Nabi Azad, Omar Abdullah and the Apni Party president Altaf Bukhari held rallies and roadshows to seek votes for their candidates.

In 2014, the voter turnout in Anantnag stood at 28.84 % which dropped to mere 8.76 % in 2019. Despite the peaceful situation, there is presence of militants not only in south Kashmir but also in Poonch and Rajouri areas of the Pir Panjal region. During the campaigning on last Saturday there were two attacks in south Kashmir killing a sarpanch and injuring two tourists at Herpora, Shopian, and Yanar, Pahalgam. Poonch and Rajouri have also witnessed attacks on soldiers.

Earlier, the Election Commission had shifted the poll date to May 25 (sixth phase) owing to weather which was vehemently opposed by the National Conference and the PDP while Peoples Conference, the BJP and the Apni Party had hailed the decision.

With over 18.30 lakh voters, the constituency has a substantial vote bank of Gujjars and Paharis. Among the candidates, only Mehbooba is a prominent native of the Anantnag seat, and she is hoping a massive turnout will work in her favour. Mehbooba, who is known for her oratory skills and public outreach, ran a high decibel campaign mainly targeting the BJP and its allies. Even her daughter Iltija Mufti also sought votes for her mother.

National Conference leader Mian Altaf Ahmed, who holds considerable influence in the Gujjar and Pahari population on either side of the Pir Panjal range, is eyeing on the Gujjar and Pahari votes which constitutes over five to six lakh votes, besides the strong cadre vote of the NC in south Kashmir and Pir Panjal regions.

And Apni Party that has fielded former legislator Zaffar Manhas as its candidate is eyeing the support of the BJP and Pahari vote bank besides former legislators and ministers on both sides of Pir Panjal who are part of the Apni Party.

Around 26,000 Kashmiri Pandits who are living in different parts of country are eligible to vote at 34 polling stations set up across the country. With the polling to the Anantnag parliamentary seat to be held on Saturday in the sixth phase, the Lok Sabha polls have already concluded on J&K’s five seats.

Multi-layer security in place

With the threat of cross-border shelling in some border areas and satellite phones and special runners in place to deal with contingencies, all is in readiness for elections in the Anantnag-Rajouri constituency.

Multi-layer security arrangements have been put in place in the constituency spread across 18 assembly segments in Anantnag, Kulgam and Shopian in south Kashmir and Rajouri and Poonch districts south of Pir Panjal to ensure free, fair and peaceful polling.

The Election Commission has set up 2,338 polling stations in the parliamentary constituency, which has more than 18.30 lakh voters. Four election staff will be stationed in every polling booth. In all, more than 9,000 polling staffers are being deployed and have left for their stations.

With 19 border polling stations along the Line of Control in Rajouri and Poonch, a contingency plan has been worked out to deal with cross-border shelling, officials said.

Some polling stations fall in communication-shadow areas and alternative arrangements have been put in place in such areas with satellite phones, wireless sets and special runners being provided in case of a crisis.

Polling will be held from 7 am to 6 pm. 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 environmental awareness.

-- With inputs from agencies

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