Today: Jun 19, 2024

More than 17 lakh voters, four serious contenders, 18 independents …and Baramulla goes to polls today

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Baramulla: More than 500 centenarians are among the 17.37 lakh voters eligible to exercise their franchise in north Kashmir’s Baramulla Lok Sabha constituency, with political observers expecting a high turnout on the back of the huge crowds that thronged election rallies and roadshows.

The first major political battle post abrogation of Article 370 in 2019 will decide the fate of Omar Abdullah, the National Conference vice-president and a former chief minister of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state and Sajad Gani Lone of JK Peoples Conference and 20 others in the fray.

Fourteen Independent candidates — two of whom are women — are among the hopefuls from the north Kashmir seat, which has traditionally returned a higher turnout compared to areas in central and south Kashmir.

The constituency goes to the polls on Monday.

Abdullah faces the biggest challenge from former minister Sajad Gani Lone, who heads the People’s Conference. The blazing campaign trail witnessed the rivals going full throttle against each other and even bringing in the BJP to target each other despite the saffron party not contesting from any of the three parliamentary seats of Srinagar, Baramulla and Anantnag-Rajouri in the Valley.

However, it is the presence of jailed Awami Ittehad Party leader and former MLA Abdul Rashid Sheikh alias Engineer Rashid that has spiced up the contest.

The People’s Democratic Party has fielded former Rajya Sabha member Mir Mohammad Fayaz while Muneer Khan, the brother of jailed separatist leader Nayeem Ahmad Khan, is contesting as an Independent.

Most observers, however, expect a triangular contest among Abdullah, Lone and Rashid. The Ghulam Nabi Azad-led Democratic Progressive Azad Party has backed Rashid’s candidature while the Apni Party, led by Altaf Bukhari, has thrown its weight behind Lone.

Given the huge turnout at the rallies and roadshows, political observers expect Baramulla to break turnout records in Kashmir.

The election authorities gave permission for 1,859 rallies, meetings and roadshows while 300 applications were rejected.

In 2019, the constituency recorded 34.17 percent polling with Kupwara district registering the highest turnout at 51.7 percent, followed by Bandipora at 31.8 percent and Baramulla at 24 percent.

The constituency is spread over 18 assembly segments in the three districts of Kupwara, Baramulla and Bandipora and also includes two segments of Budgam that were included on the recommendations of the delimitation commission two years ago.

According to Election Commission officials, 17.37 lakh people are eligible to cast their votes at 2,103 polling stations.

“There are 527 persons above the age of 100 who are eligible to exercise their franchise. There are 8,75,831 (8.75 lakh) male and 8,62,000 (8.62 lakh) female voters, besides 34 from the third gender. More than 17,000 voters are persons with disabilities,” they said.

More than 8,000 polling staff, including reserves, have been deployed at the polling stations to ensure smooth conduct of the polls, the officials said and added that 28 polling stations are located in the border areas of Kupwara and Baramulla districts.

Voting will be held from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm.

There are 18 polling booths managed by women, 17 manned by specially-abled persons and 18 by youngsters. To spread messages on the environment, the authorities have also set up 21 green polling booths.