More than 33 lakh voters will decide the fate of 33 candidates in the twin parliamentary constituencies of Jammu and Baramulla which are going to polls on Thursday in the first phase of the seven-phased general elections. The high-pitch campaigning for the two constituencies ended on Tuesday without any untoward incident.
The separatists have called for a strike on Thursday to protest against the elections and the “NIA aggression” against Hurriyat Conference leaders and their kin.
In Jammu, 20,05,730 voters including 10,40,876 males and 9,64,834 females will cast their votes at 2,740 polling stations to decide the political fortune of 24 candidates.
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Jugal Kishore is seeking re-election from the seat, while the Congress has fielded its senior vice president and former minister Raman Bhalla who is supported by the National Conference (NC).
The constituency, spread over four districts of Jammu, Samba, Poonch and Rajouri and covering 20 assembly segments, was won by Kishore in the 2014 general elections, defeating veteran Congress leader and two-time MP Madan Lal Sharma by a margin of over 2.57 lakh votes.
Kishore is facing a tough contest this time as the NC is backing the Congress candidate, while the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has decided not to field any candidate to ensure that the “secular votes” are not divided.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) too have decided to support the Congress.
Besides the BJP and the Congress candidates, the voting in the constituency will also seal the fate of two-time minister and two-time MP Choudhary Lal Singh, chief of Dogra Swabhiman Sangathan as well as National Panthers Party patron Bhim Singh.
“We have put in place all the necessary arrangements, including security setup. We are committed to hold free and fair polls,” a poll official said.
There are 244 polling stations falling along the International Border (IB) and the Line of Control (LoC) in Samba, Jammu, Rajouri and Poonch districts of the constituency and contingency has been put in place in case there is shelling from Pakistan side, the official added.
Top BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah have canvassed for the saffron party’s candidate in a bid to retain the seat, while Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh too held several rallies in different parts of Jammu region on Monday.
Notably, the Congress’ star campaigners were missing in action in the region and the party mostly banked on the services of veteran leaders including former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and erstwhile ‘Sadre-e-Riyasat’ (president) and scion of Dogra dynasty Karan Singh.
In the Baramulla parliamentary constituency, spread over 15 assembly segments of Kupwara, Baramulla and Bandipora districts in north Kashmir, more than 13 lakh voters will seal the fate of nine candidates.
There are a total of 13,08,541 electors including 6,74,417 males, 6,34,083 females and 41 belonging to the third gender. The constituency has 7,953 persons with disability (PwD) voters and 157 VVIP (Voter Verification and Information Programme) electors.
For the smooth conduct of elections, the authorities have established 1,749 polling stations at 1,387 locations in the Baramulla constituency.
Returning Officer for Baramulla Parliamentary Constituency Dr GN Itoo informed that 9 candidates are in the fray for the seat.
Prominent among them are Haji Farooq Ahamd Mir of the Congress, Mohammad Maqbool War of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Jahangir Khan of the NPP, Abdul Qayoom Wani of the PDP and Mohammad Akbar Lone of the NC.