Less than 3% votes cast in Pulwama, Shopian; 55% polling till 1500 hrs in Ladakh PC

Less than 3 per cent polling was recorded during the first eight hours in twin south Kashmir districts of Pulwam and Shopian in third and final phase of voting in Anantnag Parliamentary constituency amid unprecedented security arrangements following strike called by separatists.

However, a good number of people have come out to exercise their franchise in Ladakh Parliamentary constituency, where about 55 per cent polling was recorded till 1500 hrs.

“Around 15.64 per cent polling has been recorded in third and final phase of Anantnag Lok Sabha seat and Ladakh parliamentary constituency till 1500 hrs,” a poll official said.

He said only 1.91 per cent of the electorates have exercised their franchise in Pulwama while 2.64 per cent polling was recorded in Shopian till 1500 hrs.

“Positive response has been received from voters in Ladakh Lok Sabha constituency, where Leh witnessed 49.07 per cent polling in the first eight hours while Kargil recorded 60.91 per cent voter turnout till 1500 hrs,” he added.

Polling which began at 0700 hrs will end at 1600 hrs in Pulwama and Shopian while in Ladakh the voting will conclude at 1800 hrs.

Polling in first two phases of Anantnag constituency in Anantnag and Kulgam were held on April 23 and 29, respectively. Anantnag recorded 13.59 per cent while Kulgam 10.35 per cent polling.

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Two school buildings which were designated as polling stations in Shopian were set on fire by miscreants on Sunday. The authorities have suspended mobile internet service in both the districts as a precautionary measure to prevent spread of rumours.

Anantnag is the only constituency in the country where polling was being held in three phases for security reasons.
“Over 5.22 lakh electors are eligible to exercise their franchise in the twin districts spread over six assembly segments comprising Tral, Pampore, Pulwama, Rajpora, Wachi and Shopian. As many as 695 polling stations have been established across the districts for smooth conduct of the elections,” an official spokesman said.
There was hardly any major election meeting though political parties, participating in the polls managed to organise some under unprecedented security arrangements. Leaders of political parties again raised the issue of Article 370 and 35 A besides ban on civilian traffic movement twice in a week on Sunday and Wednesday to allow free and secure movement of security force convoy on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway. There was absolutely no mention of development, employment and other local issues during the campaign.

Interestingly, the main regional parties National Conference (NC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) blamed each other for erosion of Special Status of the state. During this phase a number of senior BJP leaders also managed to address indoor election meetings who avoided mention of Article 370 and 35 A.

Even though there are 12 candidates in fray, the main contest is between former chief minister and President of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Mehbooba Mufti, Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief G A Mir, and Justice (Retd) Hasnain Masoodi. The other candidates in fray are Sofi Yousuf of Bharatiya Janta Party, Nisar Ahmad Wani of Jammu & Kashmir National Panthers Party, Choudhary Zaffar Ali of Jammu Kashmir People’s Conference, Sanjay Kumar Dhar of Manav Adhikar Party, Surinder Singh of Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (Lohia) and Imtiyaz Ahmad Rather, Ridwana Sanam, Riyaz Ahmad Bhat, Zubair Masoodi, Shams Khwaja, Ali Mohammad Wani, Ghulam Mohammad Wani, Kyasir Ahmed Sheikh, Manzoor Ahmad Khan and Mirza Sajad Hussain Beigh, all independents.

The Lok Sabha seat was for the first time in 1967 represented by Congress leader Mohammad Shafi Qureshi, who retained the seat for two successive terms – 1971 and 1977. From 1980 to 1989 the constituency was represented by three NC leaders, Ghulam Rasool Kochak, Begum Akbar Jahan Abdullah, wife of Sheikh Abdullah, and P L Handoo. No elections could be held in 1991 due to militancy in the valley.

The seat was represented by Janata Dal leader Mohammad Maqbool in 1996. Mufti Mohammad Sayeed got elected on Congress ticket 1998. In 1999, the seat was represented by Ali Mohammed Naik of NC.
However, since 2004 till 2014, the constituency was represented by PDP Ms Mehbooba was elected in 2004, Mirza Mehboob Beg in 2009 and again Ms Mehbooba in 2014. However, she resigned and become Chief minister after the death of her father. The By-election could not be held in the constituency due to violence .
Meanwhile, the authorities have set up 559 polling station for 174,618 voters, including 85064 females, 2799 are service voters and 3 transgender voters in the Ladakh constituency, largest in area wise in the country.

The constituency spread over Kargil and Leh districts of four assembly segments – Kargil and Zanskar , Nubra and Leh. Nobra ,Leh and Kargil assembly segments were won by Congress in 2014 while Zanaskar by an Independent Syed Mohammad Baqir Rizvi.

The four candidates in the fray are Rigzin Spalbar of the Congress, Jamyang Tsering Namgyal of the BJP and two independents, Haji Asgar Ali Karbalai and Sujjad Hussain. Ladakh Lok Sabha constituency was last time won by BJP’s Thupstan Chhewang who defeated independent candidate Gulam Raza by just 36 votes.
The constituency was first won by K G Bakula of Congress in 1967 and later in 1971. The seat was again won by Congress nominee Parvati Devi in 1977 and P Namgyal 1980 and 1984. However, the seat was won by Mohammad Hassan Commander an independent in 1989 while election could not be held in 1991 because of militancy in Kashmir. In1996 P Namgyal of Congress won from the constituency, 1998 by Syed Hussain of NC, 1999 Hassan Khan NC, 2004 Thupstan Chhewang Independent, 2009 Hassan Khan Independent and 2014 Thupstan Chhewang BJP. However, Chhewang later resigned from the seat and party.(UNI)

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