Elaborate security arrangements have been made by deploying Army, BSF, CRPF and J&K police in strength to thwart any untoward incident during polling in the sensitive Srinagar and Udhampur Lok Sabha constituencies on Thursday.
J&K DGP Dilbag Singh personally reviewed the security arrangements at a high-level meeting on Tuesday. Top officers of the Army also reviewed the situation in the valley.
Top separatists, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik have reiterated their boycott call and also asked the people to observe a complete shutdown on Thursday during the second of the 5-phase election. Their boycott call for the Baramulla seat earlier this month did not evoke much response.
National Conference (NC) chief and sitting MP Farooq Abdullah is least concerned about the boycott call and told The Statesman that giving boycott call during the elections has become a routine affair for the separatists.
Geelani has urged people for a “complete election boycott” and shutdown on 18 April in poll-bound segments of Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal. Authorities have also made tight security arrangements in the Udhampur constituency in view of the recent killing of an RSS leader and two BJP activists by terrorists. The constituency will also go to the polls on Thursday.
Srinagar has a history of low polling ever since the breakout of terrorism in 1990. The lowest turnout of three decades, with 7.14% voting, was recorded amidst heightened tension and violence in 2017 when the by-election for the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat was held and Farooq Abdullah won the seat. Eight persons were killed in poll-related clashes in various parts of the valley. In the violence-hit 38 polling stations a mere 2% turnout was witnessed in the re-poll making it the lowest percentage in the state’s history.
The downtown areas are considered a stronghold of the separatists and during the by-election the Srinagar district recorded 3.84%, Ganderbal district recorded 14.71%, and Budgam district recorded 8.82% voting.
The previous lowest turnout on the prestigious seat was 11.93% in 1999 when Omar Abdullah of NC defeated Mehbooba Mufti.
It was 26% polling in 2014 when, for the first time, Farooq Abdullah lost the Srinagar seat to the PDP with a margin of about 40,000 votes. Election at that time was also held amidst the poll boycott call of separatists.
In 1989, NC’s Mohammad Shafi Bhat had won the seat unopposed. The Srinagar seat has traditionally voted for the Abdullahs and Farooq’s son Omar Abdullah represented the seat in 1998, 1999 and 2004. Farooq’s mother, Begum Akbar Jehan, had won the seat in 1977.
Farooq Abdullah had won the Srinagar seat in 2009 when he defeated Iftikhar Hussain Ansari of PDP. Polling during that election was 25.55%.
Meanwhile, over 29.81 lakh voters will decide the fate of 24 candidates contesting for the Srinagar and Udhampur Lok Sabha seats for which polling will be held on Thursday. The twin constituencies have 2,981,083 registered electors including 1,543,571 males, 1,416,387 females, 21,056 service voters (20,780 males and 276 females) and 69 transgender voters.
Twelve candidates each are in the fray for both Srinagar and Udhampur parliamentary constituencies. The Srinagar constituency is spread over 15 Assembly segments comprising three districts of Central Kashmir-Ganderbal, Srinagar and Budgam with 1,295,304 registered voters including 1,294,560 general voters and 744 service voters. 1716 polling stations have been set up across the Parliamentary constituency.
Prominent among the candidates in the fray are Sheikh Khalid Jehangir of BJP, Aga Syed Mohsin of PDP, and Farooq Abdullah of NC.
In Udhampur constituency, the prominent candidates are Jitendra Singh (BJP), Vikramaditya Singh (Congress) and Lal Singh (DSS).
The constituency is spread over 17 Assembly segments comprising six districts of Kishtwar, Doda, Ramban, Reasi, Udhampur and Kathua. The constituency has 16, 85,779 electors of which 1,665,467 are registered as general voters and 20,312 as service voters. Among the general voters, 876,319 are males and 789,105 females. The service voters include 20,052 males and 260 females, and 43 transgender electors. 2,710 polling stations have been set up in the sprawling constituency.