Turnout high on EC’s agenda, Comm reviews poll arrangements

Excelsior Correspondent

JAMMU, Mar 23: The Election Commission today discussed and reviewed all arrangements required to ensure good turnout and free, fair and violence-free voting in Srinagar and Anantnag Lok Sabha seats, which will go to polls on April 9 and 12 respectively.
At a high-level review meeting, the Election Commission called for taking all possible measures to provide security to candidates, political workers, election rallies and other stakeholders and the people for impressive turnout in the elections as low voting percentage during 2014 Parliamentary polls in these two seats was cause of concern for the Commission.
Srinagar Lok Sabha seat had recorded 26 per cent turnout and Anantnag 28 per cent during 2014 Lok Sabha elections when PDP candidates Tariq Hamid Karra (now in Congress) and Mehbooba Mufti (now Chief Minister) had won the seats.
Official sources told the Excelsior that Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Dr Nasim Zaidi, and Election Commissioners-AK Joti and Om Prakash Rawat reviewed arrangements and preparedness for the two militancy-infested Lok Sabha constituencies of the Kashmir Valley with top brass. Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Jammu and Kashmir, Shantmanu was also present in the meeting that lasted more than one and a half hour.
Sources said the meeting discussed militancy and law and order situation in all 21 Assembly segments falling in two Lok Sabha seats, which together accounted for 26 lakh electorates. They said 54 companies of para-military forces will reach Srinagar on Saturday on the instruction of Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and would be deployed in the vulnerable areas including polling stations etc within a week.
The Election Commission expressed satisfaction with the deployment of 54 additional companies of para-military forces, mainly the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) exclusively for two Lok Sabha seats apart from mobilization of additional companies of Jammu and Kashmir Armed Police (JKAP).
The Commission is understood to have directed for security arrangements in vulnerable areas of Lok Sabha seats so that the voters turn out in large number for exercising their right to franchise.
It directed for continuous updation of electoral rolls in both the Parliamentary seats till last day of filing of nomination papers, as per the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), to give chance to maximum number of people including youngsters to cast their votes.
After the high-level review meeting, sources said, the Election Commission decided to depute the Deputy Election Commissioner to Kashmir for on-spot review of election arrangements and preparedness of the administration for holding free and fair elections in both the seats, where bigwigs like former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s brother, Tasaduq Mufti and Pradesh Congress (I) Committee chief GA Mir are in the fray among others.
The Election Commission was briefed that a total of 3194 polling stations have been set up for 26 lakh voters including 74,000 migrant electorates in both the Lok Sabha seats. There will be 16 to 20 polling stations for migrant voters in Jammu, four in New Delhi and one in Udhampur.
The Election Commission was told that two Returning Officers and 31 Assistant Returning Officers-one each for Assembly segments-have already been posted in two Lok Sabha seats.
Only yesterday, the Election Commission of India had deputed nine senior IAS/IPS/IRS officers for monitoring the election to two Lok Sabha seats and ensuring free, fair and violence free polling and addressing any kind of grievances of the candidates etc.
Meanwhile, sources said, additional 54 companies of para-military CRPF would reach Srinagar within the new two days from where they will be deployed to different parts of two Lok Sabha constituencies as per the requirements.
“The additional para-military forces will be in place well ahead of the elections,” sources said, adding the deployment will boost morale of the people and encourage them for voting.