QRTs deployed outside counting centres
Sanjeev Pargal / Fayaz Bukhari
JAMMU/SRINAGAR, May 22: Fate of three party presidents, two former Chief Ministers of Jammu and Kashmir, sitting and former Union Ministers, former Ministers in the State and Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) will be known tomorrow when the Election Commission will open the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and count the votes polled for six Lok Sabha seats in five-phase polling held in the State from April 11 to May 6.
Bigwigs whose fate will be decided during tomorrow’s counting included Dr Farooq Abdullah (Srinagar Lok Sabha seat) and Mehbooba Mufti (Anantnag Parliamentary constituency), both former Chief Ministers of the State, lone Union Minister Dr Jitendra Singh (Udhampur-Doda segment),G A Mir (PCC-I chief), Jugal Kishore Sharma, sitting MP from Jammu and Jamyang Tsering Namgayal, sitting Chairman-cum-Chief Executive Councilor, Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), Leh (Ladakh seat).
Significantly, Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti and GA Mir are presidents of their parties in the State. Dr Abdullah heads the National Conference, Mehbooba the PDP and Mir the State unit of the Congress.
Fate of at least five former Ministers will also be known tomorrow. They are GA Mir, Mohammad Akbar Lone (National Conference-Baramulla), Raman Bhalla (Congress-Jammu), Choudhary Lal Singh and Harshdev Singh (both Udhampur). Lal Singh had contested the election as the candidate of Dogra Swabhiman Front and Harshdev Singh as National Panthers Party (NPP) representative. Lal Singh was also in fray from Jammu seat.
Other notable candidates included Vikramaditya Singh, son of former Sadr-e-Riyasat of the State, Dr Karan Singh (Congress-Udhampur), Justice (Retired) Hasnain Masoodi (National Conference-Anantnag), Haji Asgar Ali Karbalaie, former MLA (Ladakh-Independent), Raja Aijaz Ali (Retired IGP-Baramulla-People’s Conference) and Prof Bhim Singh (Nationalist Panthers Party-Jammu).
Official sources told the Excelsior that results of three Lok Sabha seats from Kashmir including Srinagar-Budgam, Baramulla-Kupwara and Anantnag-Pulwama and lone Parliamentary constituency of Ladakh in Ladakh division were likely to be declared by the afternoon in view of less number of votes polled in these segments.
While only 1.26 lakh votes had been cast in Ladakh seat as the constituency was based on only 1.74 lakh electorates, the votes cast in three Kashmir Lok Sabha seats was around two lakh each due to extreme low turnout.
However, counting will take time in Udhampur-Doda and Jammu-Poonch constituencies where 11.69 and 14.47 lakh electorates have exercised their right to franchise respectively.
Inspector General of Police (IGP), Jammu Zone, MK Sinha said full deployment comprising para-military forces, Quick Reaction Teams (QRTs) and adequate strength of Jammu and Kashmir Police have been deployed at both Jammu and Kathua, where counting of votes will be taken up at 8 am tomorrow.
It may be mentioned here that the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) today issued an alert to all State Governments to make strict security arrangements to thwart any law and order problem during the counting following question marks raised by the Opposition over Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).
According to officials, if everything goes well, results of all six Lok Sabha seats of the State will be declared by the evening. Counting of five seats—Jammu, Udhampur, Srinagar, Baramulla and Kupwara will be held at one single place while that of Ladakh Lok Sabha constituency will be taken up at two places in Leh and Kargil Counting of Kashmiri migrant voters will be held at Jammu, Udhampur and New Delhi.
In 2014 general election, BJP and PDP had won three seats each from the State. While BJP had emerged victorious in Jammu, Udhampur and Ladakh seats, the PDP had bagged all three Parliamentary constituencies of Kashmir including Srinagar, Baramulla and Anantnag.
However, in 2016, PDP MP from Srinagar, Tariq Hamid Qarra had resigned due to differences with the party leadership while in 2017 PDP president Mehbooba Mufti had quit Anantnag Lok Sabha seat after becoming the Chief Minister and being elected as MLA from Anantnag Assembly constituency.
In the by-election, NC president, Dr Farooq Abdullah had wrested Srinagar seat from the PDP. In view of violence during polling in Srinagar seat in which eight civilians were killed, the by-poll to Anantnag was deferred and couldn’t be held.
Except 2014 Lok Sabha polls, when Dr Farooq lost to the then PDP candidate Tariq Ahmed Qarra, the NC president has never lost any election in his life. This time, he is facing PDP candidate Aga Mohsin, Peoples Conference candidate, Irfan Raza Ansari and the BJP’s Khalid Jehangir.
Srinagar witnessed low voter turnout of 14.8 percent in the Lok Sabha polls which may benefit Abdullah. The PDP candidate who enjoys support of Shia vote bank in Srinagar and Budgam and also in some parts of Ganderbal will also get good chunk of votes.
In Anantnag Lok Sabha seats there is three cornered contest with Mehbooba Mufti, Ghulam Ahmed Mir of Congress and NC’s Hasnain Masoodi. The low turnout of 8.75 percent in the constituency has helped NC but had big disadvantage for PDP. It remains to be seen whether Mehbooba retains the seat as South Kashmir was seen as the PDP bastion.
Baramulla recorded a voter turnout of 35 percent and the main contest is between Muhammad Akbar Lone of National Conference and Raja Aijaz Ali of People’s Conference, Abdul Qayoom Wani of PDP and Engineer Rasheed of Awami Itihaad Party.
The counting in three constituencies of Kashmir valley will start tomorrow morning at three counting centres of SKICC Srinagar for Srinagar Parliamentary constituency, Government Degree College Baramulla for Baramulla constituency and, Government Degree College Anantnag for Anantnag Parliamentary constituency.
Elaborate security arrangements have been made at the counting centres with three tier security being placed to ensure peaceful conduct of the counting.
QRTs deployed outside counting centres