Jun 12, 2024

LS Poll-2024, Anantnag-Rajouri: Campaign Over, Ballots Await

Stage set for high-stake May 25 polls

The campaigning for the Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha seat drew to a close on Thursday with contestants making a last-ditch effort to woo the electorate in the constituency spread over south Kashmir and Pir Panjal region that goes for polls on May 25.

Authorities have implemented strict measures, including prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC, to ensure a smooth and peaceful polling process

The restrictions, effective from 6 pm on May 23 up to the close of polling on Monday, May 25, prohibit unlawful assemblies, processions, rallies, and public meetings related to the elections.

Since the announcement of Lok Sabha polls, the political landscape of the trans-Pir Panjal constituency sprang to life with political parties hosting a flurry of rallies, road shows, and conventions.

The rearranged Lok Sabha constituency following delimitation is spread across 18 assembly segments covering Anantnag, Kulgam, and Shopian districts of south Kashmir, as well as Rajouri and Poonch districts of Pir Panjal region.

Before the remapping of electoral territories by the Delimitation Commission, the seat was known as Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency, comprising four south Kashmir districts – Anantnag, Kulgam, Pulwama, and Shopian.

The constituency is poised to witness a nip and tuck contest between the former chief minister and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) President Mehbooba Mufti, senior National Conference (NC) leader Mian Altaf Larvi, and Apni Party leader Zaffar Iqbal Manhas.

Additionally, Ghulam Nabi Azad-led Democratic Progressive Azad Party (DPAP) candidate Muhammad Saleem Parray is also vying for the seat.

The seat was earlier going to polls on May 7, but the Election Commission of India (ECI) deferred the polls at the request of parties other than NC and PDP, citing inclement weather conditions.

The last day of canvassing witnessed an electrifying campaign trail by different political parties across the constituency.

According to the official data, the parliamentary constituency has 18, 36,576 voters enrolled in the five districts of Kulgam, Anantnag, Poonch, Rajouri, and district Shopian’s 36-Zainanpora assembly constituency, which includes 9,33,647 male, 9,02,902 female, and 27 third gender voters.

Around 17,967 Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) and 540 persons above the age of 100 years would cast their ballots in the parliamentary constituency.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has set up 2338 polling stations across the Anantnag-Rajouri Parliamentary Constituency.

Four election staff including Presiding Officers will be stationed at every polling station.

In total, more than 9000 polling staff including reserve will be deployed on duty.

There are 19 border polling stations in the districts of Rajouri and Poonch.

“The polling will be held from 7 am to 6 pm and before that there will be a mock poll in the presence of polling agents. Voting will continue even after 6 pm if the voters queue is still there on the polling station premises,” an official communiqué said.

The communiqué says that every polling station will be provided with Assured Minimum Facilities (AMF) like drinking water, electricity, a toilet, a ramp, furniture, a verandah, and a shed besides wheelchairs.

The ballot units will also have a list of contesting candidates in Braille script.

Wherever required, there shall be separate queues for the senior citizens and PwDs so that they are facilitated at every polling station.

Additionally, there will be a voter help desk, manned by the concerned Booth Level Officer (BLO) to extend necessary help whenever required.

There will be 17 pink polling stations that will be managed by women, 15 polling booths manned by PwDs, and eight polling booths managed by youth.

Also to spread the message about the environment, there will be 15 green polling stations.

The purpose behind these special polling stations is to spread awareness among certain sections of society like women, PwDs, and first-time and young voters and to motivate them to come forward and exercise their right to vote.

“To facilitate the voters and also to increase voter turnout ratios, all voters have been provided with voter information slips with information like polling station name, date, time of the poll, serial number of voter in the list, his full name, and QR code but not the photograph of the voter. Hence, voter information slips would not be allowed as proof of the identity of voters. Proof of identity will be any document out of 12 documents including EPIC. The BLOs concerned have distributed 100 percent voter information slips,” the communiqué said.

People can also view details of the polling station, and parliamentary constituency, and get the contact details of the BLO and Electoral Registration Officer among other services through the Voter Helpline App (VHA).

This mobile app is available on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

The documents which can be used for voter identification in addition to Electoral Photo Identity Card (EPIC) include Aadhaar Card, MGNREGA job card, passbooks with photograph issued by bank or post office, health insurance smart card issued under the scheme of the Ministry of Labour, driving license, PAN card, smart card issued by RGI under NPR, passport, pension document with photograph, service identity cards with photograph issued to employees by the central, state government, PSUs, public limited companies, official identity cards issued to MPs, MLAs, and MLCs, and Unique Disability ID (UDID) card issued by M/o Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India.

EPIC card is not mandatory for voting. If some voter has misplaced his or her EPIC card, any of the other mentioned documents can be used by him or her at the polling station.

To spread awareness among the voters, Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) emerged as a comprehensive programme aimed at reinforcing voter education and promoting active participation in the democratic process.

The need for SVEEP arises from the Election Commission of India’s unwavering commitment to ensuring the participation of every voter in this monumental celebration of democracy.

During the last few months, through various modes, SVEEP activities were undertaken in every nook and corner of the parliamentary constituency.

Various activities like appeal messages in print, electronic and social media through hoardings, banners, and radio jingles were carried out.

Street plays and the use of social media influencers and icons were also done.

Due to all these, the voter turnout is expected to be higher than the last Lok Sabha polls.

Home voting for those above 85 years of age and those with disability of more than 40 percent would be held at doorsteps for all those who have applied for it.

More than 600 journalists and camerapersons of print, electronic, and social media platforms have been provided with a pass to cover the polling without compromising the secrecy of the vote and without causing any inconvenience to the poll process.

Voter Turnout App will be used to display estimated provisional voter turnout details of each parliamentary constituency entered by the RO.

The media can also use the same application to capture estimated voter turnout data.

Approximate voter turnout data for each phase of the elections will be displayed through this app.

There will be two hourly reports of voting percentage from 9 am to the end of the poll.

The concerned ARO and RO will share the data with the media accordingly.

The updated figures will also be placed in the voter turnout app.

These figures are always subject to, normally upward correction as the final confirmed figures are collected after receiving the statutory forms from all polling stations.

So till these final figures are known, figures on the Voter Turnout App are to be always tentative.

All the polling stations in Anantnag-Rajouri will have CCTV-type cameras for live webcasting to control rooms established at the district and CEO offices.

The cameras will be positioned in such a way that they do not violate the secrecy of the vote.

There are few polling stations which fall in communication shadow areas.

Suitable alternate arrangements in the communication shadow areas by providing satellite phones, wireless sets, and special runners have been put in place.

Candidates and political parties needed to obtain prior permission for campaigning purposes and they sought online permission on the Suvidha app and portal.

So far, election officers accorded permission for 1920 applications and rejected 303.

In the entire J&K, from the date of announcement of elections, material and cash of around Rs 94.797 crore has been seized.

Cash, liquor, drugs, and other freebies have been seized by various enforcement departments.

Major department-wise seizures included seizures by the Police Department valuing Rs 90.83 crore, Income Tax Department 42 lakh, Excise Department 1.01 crore, and Narcotics Control Bureau 2.32 crore.

According to the communiqué, the public campaigning in areas of the Anantnag-Rajouri parliamentary constituency concluded at 6 pm on May 23, 48 hours before the elections, and no one including citizens, journalists, and politicians are allowed to partake in any such public activity.

Holding public meetings, conferences, and interviews in the parliamentary constituency has also been stopped.

This is done to give the voters a peaceful break from being influenced by campaigns so that they may make a considered decision while voting.

Political advertisements in print media can only be done after the Media Certification and Monitoring Committee’s (MCMC) prior clearance.

The sale of liquor, even from licensed shops, is also banned.

“To date, 143 grievances have been received on the CVIGIL app and more than 60 percent have been resolved in time and others are under resolution. For filing Model Code of Conduct (MCC) violation cases by citizens, the C-VIGIL app provides time-stamped evidentiary proof of the MCC, expenditure violation by empowering every citizen to click a photo or video using his or her smartphone,” the communiqué said.

It also said that to monitor various election-related activities and also check MCC compliance, a Command and Control Room has been established at the CEO’s office in Srinagar and Jammu.

Similar mini-control rooms have also been established in every DEO office which are functioning 24×7.

All electronic media channels and social media platforms are monitored here and any violation so detected is reported and the concerned RO and ARO issues notice.

Apart from looking for MCC violations, the control room also has a live feed of 100 percent polling stations and GPS vehicle tracking of all vehicles being used for poll parties.

The communiqué said that as per the latest instructions of the ECI, special polling stations have been established for migrant voters of the Kashmir division.

A total of 26 special polling stations have been established with 21 polling stations in Jammu, four in Delhi, and one in Udhampur district.

Special polling station-wise extract voter list will be with BLOs.

“The ECI is committed to providing basic facilities in all the polling stations and giving better experience to voters. Voters are requested to participate in a maximum number in the biggest festival of the largest democracy of the world,” the communiqué said.

 

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