Campaigning ends in Baramulla Lok Sabha seat, polling on April 11

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Baramulla, Apr 9: Campaigning, which remained by and large peaceful despite threat perception, came to an end on Tuesday evening in the Baramulla Parliamentary constituency, which is going to polls on April 11 in the first phase in Kashmir valley.
Meanwhile, as dozens of far flung and remote villages are within the five km range of the Line of Control (LoC), the authorities have made a ‘plan B’ to shift polling stations in the event of any ceasefire violation from across the border, particularly in Uri sector, where one person was killed and several houses were damaged in Pak shelling last month.
The seat was held by Muzaffar Hussain Baigh of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2014.
Though there are ten candidates seeking mandate from the constituency spread over Baramulla, Kupwara and Bandipora districts in north Kashmir, the main contest would be between National Conference (NC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Congress, Peoples Conference (PC) and Er Sheikh Abdul Rashid, supported by IAS-officer-turned politician Shah Faesal. Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), which has very little base in the constituency, has also put up their candidate.
Campaigning which remained by and large peaceful witnessing senior leaders of different political parties attracting good crowd during their rallies and public meetings in the constituency amidst unprecedented security arrangements.
Interestingly campaign remained confined to issues like Article 370, Article 35 A and closure of Srinagar-Jammu national highway twice in a week as a precautionary measure to allow free and secure movement of security force convoy. However, the PDP, NC and PC blamed each other for the prevailing situation. They alleged each other to have helped BJP to infiltrate into Jammu and Kashmir.
Surprisingly, all the three parties were opposing BJP and also blamed each other to have helped the saffron party to gain ground in the state, particularly in Kashmir valley.
NC president Dr Farooq Abdullah and vice president Omar Abdullah, while campaigning in favour of party candidate Mohammad Akbar Lone from the constituency, had challenged that BJP to scrape the Article 370 and 35 A, saying this will be end of relations between J&K with Union of India.
Omar also said once NC is elected to power, it will rename the Chief Minister as Wazir-e-Azam and Governor as Sadar-e-Reyasat. NC candidate Lone during his campaigning attracted criticism from BJP and national media for his alleged pro-Pakistani remarks. Mr Lone had also allegedly raised pro-Pak slogans in the state Assembly last year.
The PDP also raised similar issues during the campaigning in the constituency, seeking vote for party candidate Abdul Qayoom Wani, former Employees Joint Action Committee (EJAC) who resigned from the government job to join PDP.
Peoples Conference (PC) chairman Sajjad Gani Lone and other senior of the party addressed dozens of poll meetings and rallies during the campaign. However, during the campaigning party raised the issue of Article 370 and Article 35 A, besides ban on Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI). The main target during the campaign was however, NC leaders and PDP. Sajjad, who was a minister in the coalition government of PDP and BJP from the quota of saffron party, alleged that these parties were responsible for weakening special status of the state by comprising for chair. Seeking vote for party candidate Aijaz Ali, a former police officer, Sajjad said his party will oppose any move to remove Article 370 and Article 35 A.
Er Rashid, contesting as an Independent candidate, also attracted huge crowd during the campaigning. His candidature was supported by Shah Faesal, who formed Peoples Movement (PM) recently. The former IAS officer sought votes for Er Rashid, a former MLA of Langate in Kupwara district.
Other candidates, who are in the fray, included Haji Farooq Ahamd Mir of Congress, Mohammad Maqbool War of BJP, Jahangir Khan of JKNPP while Javid Ahmad Qureshi and Syed Najeeb Shah Naqvi are contesting as independents.
Interestingly no senior BJP leader from the centre campaigned for party candidate War. However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and BJP president Amit Shah campaigned for party candidates in Jammu and Udhampur constituencies, but skipped all the three seats in Kashmir so far.
Besides state police, Central Paramilitary Forces (CPMF), troops from different Army units have also been deployed to provide a secure and safe environment to voters. Poll material and officials have already been dispatched to different far flung and remote villages, including those near the LoC.
“As many as 13,17,738 electors, including 636059 females, will exercise the right to vote to elect their representative from Baramulla Parliamentary Constituency, which is spread across 15 Assembly segments of three districts of north Kashmir including Kupwara, Baramulla and Bandipora,” Returning Officer for Baramulla Parliamentary Constituency, Dr G N Itoo, said.
He said for smooth conduct of elections, 1749 polling stations have been established at 1387 locations. “Baramulla District has 6,36,459 electors, including 3,08,512 females, 14 trans-genders and 3484 Persons with Disability (PwD). As many as 859 polling stations have been established at 692 locations,” he said.
He said district Kupwara has 4,38,285 electors, including 2,13,016 females and 10 transgender. “These include 1896 PwD, marked voters, who will cast their votes at 578 polling stations set up at 484 locations,” he said.
“Bandipora district has 2,33,797 electors, including 1,12,555 females, 17 trans-genders and 2573 PwD. The authorities have set up 312 polling stations at 211 locations in the district,” he added.
Itoo said assured minimum facilities, including availability of electricity, water and toilets, at the polling stations have been made available under the guideline of Election Commission of India (ECI). “Ramp facility has also been made available all polling stations for differently-abled persons and senior citizens so that they can exercise their franchise to vote,” he added.
Dr Itoo said that there are many polling stations close to Line of Control (LoC) which are within the firing range of the Pakistani Army.
“Even though no ceasefire violations have been reported so far and situation on the ground is normal, permission has been taken from the Election Commission (EC) to shift these polling stations to safer place in the event of firing. We have already worked out a plan B if there was ceasefire violation on the polling day,” he said.
He said three-tier security arrangements have also been put in place across parliamentary constituency and people will be able to vote in a secure and safe environment. “The requirement by Senior Superintendents of Police (SSPs) from all the areas of the constituency has been fulfilled. Super Sensitive, sensitive and vulnerable polling stations have been identified and the security deployment plan has been made accordingly,” he added.
Even though the Army is not directly involved in the Electoral process, he said that troops have been deployed at many areas in the constituency, particularly on the LoC, to foil any militant attacks and infiltration bid from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) to disrupt the democratic process. “Security forces play a very important role. And because J&K police and paramilitary forces do not fulfill all the requirements, help of Army has also been sought. So, accordingly, the requirement has been finalized with the Army officials,” Dr Itoo said.
Answering a question about Live Web Casting at polling booths, he said many polling stations have been designated, where CCTV cameras will be installed for Live Web Casting. However, he said command centre has been established at DC office Baramulla for providing internet connectivity to polling stations which are situated in remote areas of the constituency. “Most of the polling stations have internet connectivity, except 47 polling stations. But the police telecom department has installed towers in the DC office to give connectivity to those areas which have no internet connectivity. Places like Kamalkote, which otherwise have almost no connectivity, have been provided with alternate arrangements in consultation with Army and police,” he said.
Dr Itoo said that adequate security has been provided to all the candidates, who are in fray for the Baramulla parliamentary constituency, where polling will be held in the first phase on April 11. “As soon as candidates take form to contest election, security is provided to him. Once the nomination is accepted, candidates are given extra security under the guideline of EC,” he added.
Muzaffar Hussain Baig of PDP won from the constituency after he polled 175277 votes in 2014 followed by NC candidate Sharifuddin Shariq 146058, Salamuddin Bajad of PC 71154 and Er Rashid 22090 votes. The BJP candidate Ghulam Mohamamd Mir polled just 6550 votes which was 1.41 per cent votes polled in 2014. As many as 4568 polled None of the Above (NOTA).