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Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha constituency braces for battle royale
5/24/2024 10:46:32 PM
Early Times Report
SRINAGAR, May 24: The Anantnag-Rajouri parliamentary constituency has come a long way to give democracy a chance.
Once home to new-age militancy, the Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha constituency will go to the polls on Saturday. The constituency was originally going to polls on May 7 but was deferred by the Election Commission of India at the request of BJP and other parties, to May 25.
Security personnel and polling staff have been stationed at their designated locations across the trans-Pir Panchal constituency spread over five districts - three in Kashmir and two in the Jammu region.
The constituency has 18 assembly segments - 11 in the Kashmir's Anantnag, Kulgam and Shopian, districts and seven in Jammu's Poonch and Rajouri districts across the mighty Pir Panjal range.
The ECI has set up 2,338 polling stations across the Anantnag- Rajouri Parliamentary Constituency.
While over 18.36 lakh voters will decide the fate of 20 candidates on May 25, the constituency will witness a triangular contest between Peoples Democratic Party's president Mehbooba Mufti, National Conference's influential Gujjar leader Mian Altaf and Apni Party's Zaffar Manhas.
While the BJP has not fielded any candidate from the Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha seat, saying the party was in no hurry to see the lotus bloom in Kashmir, the party has given tacit support to Apni Party's Manhas, who is a Pahari.
Earlier this year, the BJP-led government gave Paharis and some other groups Scheduled Tribe (ST) status, and the community was now expected to vote for the BJP.
However, without BJP candidates, the Paharis are now up for grabs by the major parties. The ethnic Pahari form a major chunk of the total electorate in the Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha constituency.
The constituency is also dominated by the Gujjar and Bakerwal Muslim communities and the NC is banking on this tribal community to vote for Mian Altaf who is an influential Gujjar leader and has spiritual influence on the tribal community across the Pin Panchal constituency.
Kashmiris are more than half of the population of the constituency while Paharis and Gujjars & Bakerwals, with nearly equal populations, contribute the rest.
South Kashmir used to be an erstwhile bastion of PDP and it is a high-stakes battle for the former chief minister Mufti who has gone all out to woo voters of all ethnicities.
The NC won the seat in 2009 and 2019, PDP emerged winner in 2004 and 2014.
In the last Lok Sabha election, the Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency had recorded a low voter turn of 9 per cent voting while the Rajouri-Poonch area, which was the part of Jammu Lok Sabha seat, recorded over 72 per cent voting. In 2104, the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat saw a turnout of 28 percent.
While the polls in Baramulla and Srinagar were peaceful, authorities have a security challenge in the Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha constituency.
Last week militants carried out two back-to-back attacks in south Kashmir in which a former sarpanch associated with the BJP was shot dead and a tourist couple was wounded in a separate attack.
While the militant activities have reached their lowest ebb in Kashmir after August 5, 2019 - the day when J&K's special status was abrogated - the militancy spilled over to the Pir Panjal districts of the Poonch-Rajouri.
The last few years have witnessed a series of deadly attacks on the Army in the twin districts of Poonch-Rajouri that left several soldiers dead.
Three weeks back, on May 4, militants killed an IAF official and injured four others in a brazen attack in Poonch before melting into the forests.
The authorities have made elaborate security arrangements for the polls.
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