Anantnag: Extraordinary security arrangements were in place for June 22’s polling in Jammu and Kashmir’s Anantnag assembly constituency, where Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti is in the fray, against the backdrop of boycott calls by separatist leaders and militant outfits.
Markets closed early on Tuesday afternoon in the otherwise busy Anantnag town as more vehicles of the security forces than private or public transport were seen on the roads here.
Polling staff and security personnel have been instructed to reach the 102 polling stations in the constituency on Tuesday evening itself although voting will start at 7 a.m. on Wednesday and end at 6 p.m..
None of the 102 polling stations has been categorized as normal by the Election commission because of the threats to the voting process by the militants and separatist leaders, with 52 categorised as hyper-sensitive and the other 50 as sensitive.
Apart from Mehbooba Mufti of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), there are seven other candidates in the fray including Iftikhar Hussain Misgar of the National Conference (NC) and Hilal Ahmad Shah of the Congress.
None of the rivals in these by-elections poses a serious challenge to her, but her main worry is the voter turnout.
During her campaign roadshows and rallies in the constituency, Mehbooba Mufti has laid stress on “a decisive mandate”, which, she said, is essential for her to carry forward the agenda of development and peace in the state envisaged by her father and late chief minister, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed.
This seat was represented in the 87-member state assembly by her father who passed away on January 7 this year.
The entire south Kashmir area including the districts of Anantnag, Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam has traditionally been a political stronghold of the PDP.
In 2014 assembly elections, Sayeed had defeated Shah of the Congress by 6,000 votes and anything less than that victory margin would, at a perceptional level, not go down well for either Mehbooba Mufti or her party.
Votes would be counted on June 25 and the result would by announced the same day.