Polling began in Kulgam district of Jammu and Kashmir — part of the Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency — on Monday amid stringent security arrangements as the voting in the second leg of the three-phased schedule for the Lok Sabha seat would decide the fate of 18 candidates, including former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti.
Polling began at 7 am in the district and would end at 4 pm, officials said.
They said all arrangements were in place to ensure smooth conduct of the second leg of the three-phased parliamentary polls in the Anantnag constituency in the restive south Kashmir.
Stringent and elaborate security arrangements have been put in place in the district in the restive south Kashmir to ensure smooth conduct of polling, the officials said.
They said a multi-layered security set-up was put in place as part of an elaborate security plan for protection of polling booths, handling of law and order problems and thwarting the designs of anti-national elements to disrupt the polls and also to instil a sense of confidence among voters for ensuring free, fair, transparent and smooth conduct of elections in the district.
The officials said all of the 433 polling stations have been designated either as hyper-sensitive or sensitive and a massive security layer has been thrown around the polling stations, many of which have been clubbed.
The Kulgam district, which comprises four assembly segments of Kulgam, Devsar, Noorabad and Hom Shalibugh, has 3,45,489 electors, including 1,79,607 males, 1,64,604 females, 1265 service electors and 13 transgender voters.
Out of these, the Kulgam Assembly segment has the highest number of 98,298 voters (51,051 males, 46,818 females, 455 service voters and 4 transgender voters), while as Noorabad has the lowest 77,171 electors, including 40,093 males, 36,886 females, 188 service voters and 4 transgender voters.
The Assembly segment of Devsar has 91,288 voters (47,467 males, 43,324 females, 492 service voters and five transgender voters), and the Hom Shalibugh segment has 78,669 voters (40,996 males, 37,576 females and 127 service voters).
The Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency is spread over four districts of Anantnag, Kulgam, Shopian and Pulwama with 16 assembly segments.
The Lok Sabha polls to this constituency are being held in three phases due to security reasons.
Anantnag district went to polls on 23 April, while voting in Pulwama and Shopian districts will take place on 6 May.
The Election Commission has curtailed the polling duration for the Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency by two hours following a request from the state police to this effect. The revised polling timing is from 7 am to 4 pm.
There are 18 candidates in the fray for the Anantnag constituency, including PDP president and former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti.
The Congress has fielded its state president Ghulam Ahmad Mir, while former High Court judge Hasnain Masoodi is contesting on the National Conference ticket.
The other candidates in the fray include former MLC Sofi Yousuf (BJP), Nisar Ahmad Wani (National Panthers Party), Zaffar Ali (People’s Conference), Sanjay Kumar Dhar (Manav Adhikar Party) and Surinder Singh (Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party).
Imtiyaz Ahmad Rather, Ridwana Sanam, Riyaz Ahmad Bhat, Zubair Masoodi, Shamas Khwaja, Ali Mohammad Wani, Gh Mohammad Wani, Kyasir Ahmed Shiekh, Manzoor Ahmed Khan and Mirza Sajad Hussain Beigh are all independents.