Security forces including J&K Police and CRPF stand guard at a polling station in Pinglena village of Pulwama
Security forces including J&K Police and CRPF stand guard at a polling station in Pinglena village of southern Kashmir's Pulwama district on May 13, 2024 | Photo Credit: Aasif Ganaie

ANANTNAG — Reshaped after the delimitation exercise, the Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha constituency is all set to go for polls on May 25 with 20 candidates in the fray.

The constituency, spanning both sides of the Pir Panjal range, was initially set for election on May 7 which was postponed to May 25 due to severe weather conditions. The decision came after requests from various parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Apni Party, and Democratic Progressive Azad Party (DPAP), citing the closure of the Mughal Road – an alternative link between Jammu and Kashmir.

Officials informed the news agency KNO that the Anantnag-Rajouri parliamentary constituency comprises a total of 18 assembly segments, with seven in the Jammu division – four in Rajouri and three in Poonch – and 11 in the Kashmir region – seven in Anantnag district, three in Kulgam, and one in Shopian.

They said there are 183,6576 voters enrolled in five districts: Kulgam, Anantnag, Poonch, Shopian (36- Zainapora), and Rajouri, which include 933,647 male and 902,902 female voters, and 27 third-gender voters. Around 17,967 persons with disabilities and 540 persons above the age of 100 years will cast their ballots in the parliamentary constituency.

“There are nearly 81,000 first-time voters who will be casting their votes for the first time since the 2019 parliamentary elections,” they added.

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The Election Commission of India (ECI) has set up 2,338 polling stations across the Anantnag-Rajouri parliamentary constituency. In total, more than 9,000 polling staff members, including reserves, will be deployed on duty. There are 19 border polling stations in the districts of Rajouri and Poonch.

In the Anantnag-Rajouri parliamentary constituency, a total of 20 candidates are vying for the seat including former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, former minister Mian Altaf, JKAP leader Zaffar Iqbal Manhas, DPAP leader Advocate Mohammad Saleem Parray besides independents and other contenders are also in electoral race.

Campaigning for the last phase of the Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha seat ended on Thursday evening. Restrictions under Section 144 of the CrPC across the constituency have been imposed to ensure the orderly conduct of the electoral process, uphold democratic principles and mark the beginning of the campaign silence period.

Officials said all security arrangements are in place in the constituency, with paramilitary forces, J&K Police, and Armed Police being deployed at polling stations. Patrolling by security personnel has also been intensified in vulnerable areas, they added.

Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), PK Pole said that so far, the polls have been peaceful. “There has been no poll-related violence; however, an incident of violence in Anantnag and Shopian demanded extra scrutiny. We have ensured that no violence takes place on the poll day for which security deployment has been readied,” he said.

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“The situation may have been peaceful for the past few years, but that in no way means that we don’t need extra precautions. Ample security has been deployed in the region as per the required demand,” Pole added.

On the factors for the high turnout, the CEO said, “Though the campaign of candidates holds the utmost importance, the election commission has also played a role in the high voter turnout in the region.”

In his message to the voters of Poonch and Rajouri, he said, “People of Jammu and Kashmir have voted in high numbers so far. Areas in south Kashmir and Rajouri have a history of high voter turnout. Basic facilities including water, electricity, toilets and helpers have been arranged at polling stations. The facilities have been organised for the public. They should come and exercise their ballots on May 25.”

Security remains a paramount concern due to increased militant activities in Rajouri-Poonch. A government employee Mohammad Razak was killed in an attack in Rajouri on April 22, and an ambush on an Indian Air Force convoy in Poonch on May 4 resulted in casualties.

In response, over 25,000 security personnel have been deployed across the constituency, with about 1,600 polling stations classified as “hypersensitive”.

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