All set for voting in Anantnag-Rajouri seat; 4 main contenders among 20 candidates in fray

Paramilitary forces start taking over Polling Stations

18.3 lakh voters, authorities expect good turnout

Sanjeev Pargal

JAMMU, May 22: Over 18.30 lakh electorates will decide the fate of 20 candidates including former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, former Minister Mian Altaf, BJP-backed Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP) leader Zaffar Iqbal Manhas and DPAP leader Maqbool Parray in Anantnag-Rajouri Parliamentary constituency which goes to polls on May 25 where campaigning will come to an end tomorrow evening.
Among 18.30 lakh voters eligible to exercise their right to franchise in last Lok Sabha seat in the Union Territory that will go to polls in the sixth phase, there are 8.99 lakh women. Besides, there are nearly 81,000 first-time voters who have enrolled themselves after 2019 Parliamentary polls.

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Like four other Lok Sabha seats of Jammu and Kashmir, Anantnag-Rajouri constituency is also spread over 18 Assembly segments including four in Rajouri district, three in Poonch, seven in Anantnag, three in Kulgam and one in Shopian. A total of seven districts of the segment fall in the twin border districts of Rajouri and Poonch; and 11 in South Kashmir districts of Anantnag, Kulgam and Shopian.
Authorities are expecting high turnout in Anantnag-Rajouri constituency also like Srinagar and Baramulla. While Rajouri and Poonch districts in Jammu division always witnessed bumper voting, South Kashmir was earlier known for low turnout but going by the trends in Srinagar and Baramulla seats, the Election authorities are confident that there will be a good turnout in Anantnag, Kulgam and Shopian also on May 25.
This is the first election on Anantnag-Rajouri seat. In 2019, South Kashmir was one Parliamentary constituency while Rajouri and Poonch districts were part of Jammu Lok Sabha seat. However, after delimitation, the seat was created with seven Assembly segments of Jammu division and 11 from Kashmir. Previously, Kashmir division had three Lok Sabha seats and Jammu division two. Now both the divisions have two and half seats each.
Officials said all security arrangements are in place in the constituency and paramilitary forces, Jammu and Kashmir Police and Armed Police are being deployed at Polling Stations ahead of the voting. Patrolling by the security personnel has also been intensified in the vulnerable areas ahead of polling.
A total of 2,338 Polling Stations, 2,113 in rural areas and 225 in urban areas, have been set up across the constituency.
The segment is witnessing a high-pitched campaign with leaders such as National Conference president Dr Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar, Mehbooba Mufti and her daughter Iltija Mufti, DPAP chairman Ghulam Nabi Azad and Apni Party president Syed Altaf Bukhari making all-out efforts to garner support.
Mehbooba faces a tough challenge from National Conference candidate and influential Gujjar leader Mian Altaf and the Apni Party’s Zafar Iqbal Khan Manhas, who has the BJP’s backing.
Democratic Progressive Azad Party (DPAP) leader Mohammad Saleem Parray besides Independents and others are also in the fray.
BJP leaders also joined the campaigning for Manhas later with party’s national general secretary Tarun Chugh, UT chief Ravinder Raina and two Ministers from Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh canvassing in the segment.
Although the terror attacks left three people, including an Indian Air Force (IAF) Corporal, a former Sarpanch of the BJP and a Government official who was brother of a Territorial Army jawan, dead and several more injured, campaigning by political parties and individual contestants continued without any disruption.
The campaigning has now gathered steam especially after the Srinagar and Baramulla Lok Sabha seats witnessed record-breaking turnout on May 13 and 20, respectively, as voters put behind separatist-sponsored boycott calls of the past.
While the Srinagar constituency recorded nearly 38 per cent polling — its second-highest in the past three decades — Baramulla registered its all-time high voter turnout of 58.17 per cent.
The Udhampur Lok Sabha constituency in Jammu province was the first in the Union Territory to go to polls on April 19 and it registered a 68 per cent turnout in the first major electoral battle in the Union Territory since the abrogation of Article 370, sealing the fate of Union Minister Dr Jitendra Singh and Congress leader and former Minister Choudhary Lal Singh.
The polling in the Jammu Parliamentary constituency in the second phase of the Lok Sabha election on April 26 recorded a turnout of 69.01 per cent, the highest so far in Jammu and Kashmir in this election.
Officials said there has been just one untoward incident so far that happened during an election rally of the National Conference in which three of its workers suffered injuries in a knife attack in the Mendhar area of Poonch on Sunday but that too was not linked to terrorism and was just a local crime.
Terrorists struck Kunda Top in Rajouri’s Shahdara area on April 22 and shot dead a Government employee, Mohd Razaq. This was followed by an ambush on an IAF convoy moving towards Sanai Top in the Surankote area of Poonch on May 4, resulting in the martyrdom of one soldier and injuries to four others.
The border districts of Rajouri and Poonch have witnessed some of the major terrorist attacks over the past two years, resulting in the loss of lives of security personnel. A number of terrorists have also been killed on LoC as well as hinterland in both the districts.