JAMMU/SRINAGAR, Apr 16: Campaigning ended in prestigious Udhampur and Srinagar Parliamentary constituencies at 6 pm today where several high profile candidates including former Chief Minister and National Conference president, Dr Farooq Abdullah, Union Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), Dr Jitendra Singh and Vikramaditya Singh, son of former Sadar-e-Riyasat of the State, Dr Karan Singh are in fray.
A total of 12 candidates are in the race for Udhampur seat including Dr Jitendra Singh (BJP), Vikramaditya Singh (Congress), Choudhary Lal Singh, former Minister (Dogra Swabhiman Front) and Harshdev Singh, former Minister (Nationalist Panthers Party (NPP). The two seats will go to polls in second phase of elections on April 18.
In view of revived militancy in Kishtwar district, which is part of Udhampur-Doda constituency, top officers of Police, Army, BSF and CRPF held three joint security review meetings at Kishtwar, Marwah and Dachan today to review security arrangements for the elections and steps to curb the militancy.
While Dr Farooq Abdullah is seeking re-election from Srinagar, Dr Jitendra is vying for second term from Udhampur. Farooq had lost 2014 Parliamentary election to Tariq Hamid Qarra, then a PDP candidate but won Srinagar seat in the by-election held in April 2017 following Qarra’s resignation. Dr Jitendra had defeated former Chief Minister of J&K and presently Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad in his electoral debut.
Azad is not contesting the election this time and has been replaced by the Congress with Vikramaditya Singh.
Inspector General of Police (IGP), Jammu Zone, MK Sinha told the Excelsior that all security arrangements have been made to ensure peaceful conduct of elections on Udhampur-Doda Lok Sabha seat. He said Police, Army, BSF and CRPF officials today held joint meetings at Kishtwar, Marwah and Dachan, which were chaired by Director General of Police Dilbag Singh to give final touch to election security and review militancy-related situation.
Sinha said security personnel and polling staff have been airlifted to some of the snow bound areas in Kishtwar district.
Day curfew has been lifted in Kishtwar town, Sinha said, adding the relaxation period from 6 am to 8 pm passed off peacefully barring protests by the people. Curfew was imposed in Kishtwar town last Tuesday following the killings of top RSS functionary, Chanderkant Sharma and his PSO Rajinder Kumar by the militants.
The DGP has, meanwhile, directed police to establish SOG camps, nakas and bunkers in Kishtwar district and asked security agencies to work in coordination to ensure peaceful elections and tackle the militancy.
SSP Kishtwar Shakti Pathak said all arrangements have been made to ensure peaceful elections in Kishtwar and there will be no day curfew now. However, he added, night curfew will remain in-force. He said Army has been withdrawn from Kishtwar town.
In the morning, people from minority community held protests against the killings as well as administration for their failure to arrest the accused militants. In the evening again, they took out candle march in the town.
A total of 16.47 lakh electorates including 8.67 lakh male and 7.79 lakh female are eligible to cast their votes in Udhampur-Doda seat. Authorities have set up 2710 polling stations for the voters.
The high-pitched campaign saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president, Amit Shah, Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh and cricketer-turned-politician, Gautam Gambhir address election rallies for BJP candidate, Jitendra Singh while Congress leader Jyotiraditya Singh held a rally for Congress nominee Vikramaditya Singh. Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh was also scheduled to address a rally for the Congress candidate today but couldn’t make it due to adverse weather conditions for flying of chopper.
Meanwhile, the campaigning for prestigious Srinagar Lok Sabha seat also came to an end today.
Srinagar seat comprised three districts of Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal.
It was relatively a low key campaign here with only National Conference president Farooq Abdullah, who is seeking a fourth term in the Lower House of Parliament from here, making his presence felt as a candidate.
Dr Abdullah is pitched against political greenhorns Aga Moshin of the PDP, Irfan Ansari of the People’s Conference and Khalid Jehangir of the BJP though a total of 12 candidates are in the fray.
An election official said there were only 46 rallies in Srinagar district, a city of over 12 lakh residents, during the campaign period.
“The campaign period remained by and large peaceful,” he added.
He said 16 complaints of the violation of Model Code of Conduct were received and the action was taken in nine of them.
The polling on Thursday will be keenly watched within and outside Kashmir as the constituency recorded an all-time low of 7.2 per cent voter turnout in 2017 bye-election, marred by violence on polling day that left nine persons dead and scores of others injured.
Stringent security measures have been put in place for the polling as additional security personnel have been deployed across the Srinagar constituency to ensure peaceful and smooth conduct of elections, the official said.
As many as 12,90,318 voters are eligible to cast their votes with authorities having set up 1,716 polling stations in the constituency.
For migrant voters of the constituency, 26 polling stations have been set up with 21 in Jammu, one in Udhampur and four in New Delhi.
Farooq Abdullah is among 12 candidates in the fray and is seen as the front runner to enter the Lok Sabha for the fourth time from Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency.