Voting today in 4 constituencies
23 April 2006
The Daily Excelsior
Baramulla: Polling for the by-elections in four Assembly constituencies of Bhaderwah, from where Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad is contesting, Pattan, Rafiabad and Sangrama in the State will be held tomorrow amid tight security. A thick security blanket has been thrown around the all polling stations in the constituencies. Almost all the polling booths have been categorised as hyper-sensitive and sensitive. Significantly, no separatist group has called for a general strike tomorrow unlike in the past though almost all the secessionist organisations have called upon the people to boycott the by-elections. A high pitch campaigning, which ended last evening, was witnessed in the constituencies during the entire period. In view of the high degree of threat perception and directions of the Election Commission, security forces have been put on high alert and additional troops deployed in the constituencies. All the contesting candidates, irrespective of their party affiliations, and the poll personnel had been provided with adequate security. The Election Commission had earlier directed the State Government to provide adequate security and safe accommodation to the candidates. 'We have made adequate security arrangements to ensure free and fair polls,' Inspector General of Police (IGP), Kashmir K Rajendra Kumar said. He said several separatist organisations have given a poll boycott call and the militants too have threatened to disrupt the election process. 'We are a bit relaxed as the campaigning remained by and large peaceful,' Mr Kumar said, adding adequate paramilitary forces and the Jammu and Kashmir Police Personnel have been deployed for free, fair and smooth elections. The IGP said no security personnel was brought from outside the Kashmir valley for the election duty as had been done in the past. 'We have mobilised additional forces within the Valley itself after making some adjustments. The mobilisation is in addition to the forces already deployed for counter-insurgency operations in these areas,' he added. The IGP said the Army has been kept out of the poll process. 'We are not deploying the Army. But, the Army will continue with its operations against the militants as usual,' he added. Mr Kumar said there were intelligence inputs suggesting that the militants will try to disrupt the poll process. 'But, we do not have any specific information about any particular target. Militants have triggered blasts and targetted polling stations in the past elections. This time we have taken elaborate measures to frustrate their nefarious designs,' he added. He said security forces have been given clear cut instructions to deal firmly with those trying to intimidate or threaten voters. 'The forces have carried out intensive area domination segments to instill a sense of confidence and security among the voters so that they could exercise their democratic right without any fear and in a free and fair manner,' Mr Kumar added. In Bhadarwah constituency of Doda district in Jammu region, Mr Azad is facing a straight contest from Bharatiya Janata Party's Dhanantar Singh alias Koushal Kotwal. The seat was vacated by former Power Minister and senior Congress leader Mohammad Sharief Niaz to enable Mr Azad to contest the elections and enter the State Assembly. An estimated 90,476 voters, including 44,310 women, are expected to cast their votes from the constituency in which 112 polling stations have been established. Out of these, 48 have been categorised as hyper-sensitive, 44 sensitive and 20 normal. As many as 15 candidates are in the fray for the bypoll in north Kashmir's three constituencies. While four candidates each are contesting from Pattan and Rafiabad seats, Sangrama will witness a fight between seven contestants. An estimated 1,98,817 electorate, including 96,010 women, are expected to exercise their franchise in the three constituencies. There are 1559 migrant voters also. Out of the total 76,355 voters in Pattan constituency, 39,312 are men and 37,043 women. Similarly in Rafiabad, there are 67,011 electorate out of which 34,697 are men and 32,314 women. In Sangrama constituency, out of the total 55,451 voters, 28,798 are men and 26,653 women. About 103 polling booths have been declared as hyper-sensitive and 161 as sensitive in the three Assembly constituencies. Out of the total 264 polling stations in three seats, 91 each are in Pattan and Rafiabad and 82 in Sangrama constituencies. In Pattan, 32 polling stations have been declared as hyper-sensitive and 59 sensitive while in Rafiabad 31 are hyper-sensitive and 60 sensitive. In Sangrama constituency, 40 polling booths were declared hyper-sensitive and 42 as sensitive. The key fight in the bypoll is between the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a ruling coalition partner, and the main opposition National Conference (NC). While in Pattan, PDP candidate Moulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari will battle it out against NC's Sheikh Mustaffa Kamal to retain the seat, the main contest in Rafiabad is between PDP's Mohammad Dilwar Mir, seeking re-election, and NC's advocate Mohammad Maqbool Mir. In Sangrama, the nc has decided to support independent candidate Shoaib Nabi Lone, the son of then Minister of State for Education Dr Ghulam Nabi Lone, who was assassinated by unidentified gunmen at high-security Tulsi Bagh area in Srinagar on October 18 last year. The PDP has fielded Javed Hussain Baig, the nephew of deputy Chief Minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig, from the seat. The by- elections in Pattan and Rafiabad have been necessitated following the resignation of sitting legislators - Moulvi Ansari and Mr Mir respectively - after they left the NC to join the PDP. The bypoll in Sangrama has been necessitated due to the killing of Dr Lone. Besides Moulvi Ansari and Dr Kamal, the other candidates in the fray from Pattan are two independents Abdul Ahad Najar and Nazir Ahmed Mir. In Rafiabad, BJP's Mohammad Maqbool War and Abdul Khaliq Sheikh of the Panthers Party are also in the fray and in Sangrama three independents Zafarullah Beigh, Abdul Rehman Lone and Ghulam Mohiuddin Bhat besides Sonaullah Beigh of the Panthers Party and Javed Ahmed Qureshi of the Rashtriya Lok Dal will take part in the electoral battle. The political parties and contesting candidates made all efforts to outdo each other in wooing the voters with their claims and counter-claims. The NC and the PDP blamed and levelled allegations each other for the ills of the State and at the same time both the parties took credit of all the major achievements. Top leaders of both the political parties and the independents also held several public meetings to woo the voters. NC chief patron and former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, president Omar Abdullah and other senior leaders toured extensively in all the constituencies covering almost all the villages to campaign for their party candidates. PDP chief patron and former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, president Mehbooba Mufti and other senior leaders matched the NC in lobbying hard for their party candidates. Several separatist groups, including the rival factions of the Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front headed by Yasin Malik and the Democratic Freedom Party of Shabir Ahmed Shah, also held several anti-election campaign in all the constituencies. Terming as 'cruel joke, deception and meaningless' the elections, the separatists asked the people to boycott the bypoll. The counting of votes would be taken up on April 27.