All set for counting at 22 distt hqrs, poll results tomorrow

Sanjeev Pargal

JAMMU, Dec 21: Formation of next Government in Jammu and Kashmir will be decided on December 23 when counting of about 48.29 lakh votes will be taken up by the Election Commission at 22 district headquarters across the State amidst tight security arrangements and imposition of prohibitory orders under Section 144 CrPC in and outside the counting premises.
Official sources told the Excelsior that out of a total of 73.18 lakh electorates in the State, about 48.29 lakh (approximately 66 per cent) have exercised their right to franchise in five phase polling and sealed the fate of 831 candidates including 803 male and 28 females in the EVMs, which will be opened simultaneously at all 22 district headquarters on Tuesday.
District Election Authorities have made elaborate security and other arrangements for smooth counting of votes and declaration of results by afternoon.
“The trends will start pouring in from 9 am and all results will be out by about 1 pm if everything goes well,” sources said.
They added that the Election Commission has directed imposition of prohibitory orders under Section 144 CrPC in and around the counting centres to ensure hassle and incident free counting of votes.
“A direction has gone to all the DEOs, who happened to be the Deputy Commissioners and District Magistrates to impose Section 144 and apprise about it to all political parties, contesting candidates and their polling agents,” sources said.
Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Umang Narula said that a total of 831 candidates have contested the Assembly elections for 87 Assembly segments in five phases. He added that arrangements for smooth counting have been made at all places.
“The counting will be peaceful as were the Assembly elections,” he said.
“As many as 28 counting centres have been set up in 94 halls across the State. Entire process of counting will be videographed,” source said.
Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir Rohit Kansal said all District Election Officers (DEOs) have been directed to strict follow the Election Commission guidelines at the counting centres.
“Apart from this, security arrangements have been made in such a manner that there were no repercussion to those, who have cast votes and victory processions by the candidates pass off peacefully. For the purposes, the DEOs have been asked to take political parties into confidence,” he said.
Adequate number of para-military and police personnel will be deployed at the district headquarters outside the venue of counting centres to maintain law and order and ensure peaceful counting just like the peaceful polling in five phases.
The counting will decided fate of several bigwigs including Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who contested election from two Assembly seats of Sonawar in Srinagar and Beerwah in Budgam, PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who was in fray from Anantnag, all 23 Ministers in outgoing NC-Congress coalition Government, who were given mandate by their parties, several sitting MLAs/MLCs, two sitting Rajya Sabha members of NC-Mohammad Shaffi Uri (Uri) and Ghulam Nabi Ratanpuri (Pulwama), former MPs and other bigwigs from four main contenders-PDP, BJP, NC and Congress.
PDP and BJP have fielded several new faces while NC and Congress have mostly relied on old guards.
Though different opinion polls have predicted hung Assembly, the PDP has been shown emerging as single largest party by all the polls followed by the BJP. NC, the present single largest party with 28 seats, was shown trailing at third place and the Congress at fourth.
In the present House, NC has 28 seats, PDP 19, Congress 17, BJP 10, NPP 3 while rest were lone members of their parties or Independents. PDP had won 21 seats but its two MLAs-Mehbooba Mufti and Muzaffar Beig had resigned in June after being elected to Lok Sabha. Similarly, BJP had won 11 seats but its State president Jugal Kishore Sharma was elected to Lok Sabha.
A large number of security force and state police personnel remained deployed outside strong rooms, where the EVMs have been kept. Agents of different candidates were also keeping a close watch on strong rooms. Officials said that necessary training has been given to the officials for counting of votes.
In Jammu district, which has highest number of 11 Assembly seats, the counting of votes will be taken up at Government Polytechnic and MAM College while in Srinagar, the counting of votes in 8 Assembly constituencies would be held at S K International Convention Complex (SKICC) on the bank of Dal lake. The entire area has been sealed and a large number of security force and state police personnel remained deployed in and outside the SKICC.
The ongoing elections will be a litmus test as much for BJP, which is making its first serious foray in Jammu and Kashmir to form a Government having launched Mission 44+ under the command of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party’s national president Amit Shah, and the Congress, which will be hoping to stay relevant in the State politics following the massive rout in Lok Sabha polls earlier this year followed by debacle in Maharashtra and Haryana Assembly polls and likely rout in Jharkhand, which also went to polls along with Jammu and Kashmir.
Though the voter turnout in the elections has increased significantly but the number of aspiring lawmakers dipped substantially compared to 2008 Assembly polls when a record 1,344 candidates tried their luck on 87 constituencies.
The number of candidates this year has dropped by nearly 40 per cent compared to the polls held in 2008.
According to the data provided by the Election authorities, 1,344 candidates contested the 2008 Assembly elections to the 87-member House but the number this year fell to 831.
The number of Independent candidates fell by more than 46 per cent from 513 in 2008 to 276 this year.
While the Independents constituted more than 36 per cent of the total candidates in 2008, only four (around five per cent) of them were successful.
Jammu West constituency had the highest number of 34 candidates in 2008 but this year, it has only 15 contestants.
In Kashmir, Amirakadal constituency had 29 candidates six years ago, which came down to 14 this year.
Batamaloo constituency in Srinagar city had the highest number of 16 candidates.
In the 2008 elections, Nobra constituency in Ladakh region had the lowest number of four candidates but this year, nearby Leh constituency had just two candidates-Nawang Rigzin Jora, the Urban Development Minister and Chering Dorjey, BJP.
40 of the 87 constituencies had less than 10 candidates in the fray. Six years ago, 78 constituencies had more than 10 candidates vying to become a lawmaker of the State.
In fact, 18 constituencies had more than 20 contestants while several others had 19 candidates. Only nine constituencies had less than 10 candidates in 2008 Assembly polls.
The first phase of elections for 15 Assembly seats held on November 25 saw 72 per cent electorate exercising their franchise, while the second phase of polling for 18 seats also recorded same turnout figures.
The turnout fell to 58 per cent in the third phase of polling for 16 seats but was still better by nearly nine per cent compared to 2008 polls.
The fourth phase of polls for 18 seats also recorded comparatively low turnout of 49 per cent. Like third phase, it was four per cent higher than 2008 polls for these seats.
The fifth phase of elections for 20 seats, all in Jammu region, also saw over 76 per cent voter turnout.
The high voter turnout signalled an end to boycott politics in Kashmir, as even some areas considered to be separatist strongholds voted in larger numbers.
Sopore constituency, hometown of hardline Hurriyat Conference chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani, recorded a turnout of 30 per cent which was 10 per cent increase than 2008.
The eight constituencies of Srinagar city, which had a combined turnout of 21.5 per cent in 2008, also saw the voter turnout go up by 6.5 per cent this year.
Militants made desperate attempts to derail the electoral process by carrying out sensational attacks on army camps at Arnia area of Jammu and Uri in Kashmir.
They also killed three Sarpanchs while injuring two other political workers in attacks spanning over the five phases of polling, which came to an end yesterday.


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