High alert for final phase as EC reviews arrangements

Sanjeev Pargal

JAMMU, Dec 17: Authorities today undertook “extraordinary security measures’’ for final and fifth phase of Assembly elections in remaining 20 constituencies of Jammu, Kathua and Rajouri districts that will go to polls on December 20 in the aftermath of nationwide alert sounded for terror attacks. Eleven out of 20 constituencies fall along the International Border (IB) and Line of Control (LoC).
Election Commission today held review of security and election preparedness for all 20 seats while Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) VS Sampath was expected to review situation and arrangements for the final phase in the next two days.
Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), J&K Umang Narula told the Excelsior that he reviewed arrangements for last phase of polling through video conferencing with all three Deputy Commissioners and SSPs of Jammu, Kathua and Rajouri district while a similar review of the arrangements including security and other preparedness will be undertaken by CEC VS Sampath and Election Commissioners in the next two days.
Narula said all arrangements of security, peaceful and smooth elections for remaining 20 Assembly seats have been made. He added that number of hyper sensitive polling stations has been increased in the border district of Rajouri to 168, all of which will be under video surveillance.
Jammu district with highest Assembly segments of 11, Kathua 5 and Rajouri 4 will go to elections in the last phase on December 20. Campaigning for all these constituencies will end at 6 pm tomorrow.
Jammu district has 54 polling stations falling along the IB and LoC while Rajouri has 38 booths on LoC and Kathua 23 on the IB for which the authorities have prepared Contingency Plan under which the booths would be shifted to safer zones within five kilometers radius if there was any firing from the Pakistan side on LoC and IB.
Deputy Commissioner, Rajouri, Jatinder Singh said all 38 polling stations of Rajouri district fall along the LoC in two Assembly segments of Rajouri and Nowshera Assembly constituencies for which alternate arrangements have been made in case the need arises.
Authorities in Jammu and Kathua districts have also identified safer zones for the polling stations falling along the LoC and IB and they will be put to use in case of firing. The Contingency Plan was necessitated in view of heavy mortar shelling and firing by Pakistan along the IB and LoC a couple of months back.
Official sources said nearly 500 additional companies of para-military forces apart from Armed Police, Indian Reserve Police and local police were being deployed in fifth and final phase of polling to ensure trouble and violence free elections. Five phase election process will conclude on December 20 while counting will be held on December 23.
“Deployment of para-military forces and police parties in polling stations and vulnerable areas has started. It will be completed by December 19, a day ahead of the polling,’’ sources said.
Army and BSF were already maintaining high alert on the LoC and IB to ensure that there was no infiltration of the militants to sabotage the elections.
A total of 213 candidates were in fray for 20 seats in the last phase including five sitting Ministers, several former Ministers, legislators, former MPs and bigwigs of various political parties, whose fate will be sealed in the Electronic Voting Machines on December 20.
A total of 11 Assembly constituencies have their areas falling along LoC and IB in the last phase. They included Bishnah, Suchetgarh, RS Pura, Marh, Raipur Domana, Akhnoor and Chhamb in Jammu district, Nowshera and Rajouri in Rajouri district, Kathua and Hiranagar in Kathua district.

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