Baramulla, Apr 11 : Polling began on Thursday in Baramulla Parliamentary constituency in north Kashmir, where over 13 lakh voters are eligible to exercise their franchise to elect their representative among nine candidates in the first phase amid unprecedented security arrangements following boycott and strike called by separatists. Polling started at 7am and will end at 6pm at all 1749 polling stations established at 1387 locations in the constituency, spread over Baramulla, Kupwara and Bandipora districts, official sources said.
Polling was by and large peaceful and there was no report of any untoward incident so far, they further said. However, voting has yet to pick up due to cold weather and will increase as the day progresses, they said. According to the sources, In Sopore, Baramulla town, Pattan and Palahalan not much voters could be seen but the authorities expressed hope that the voter turn out will pick up in the day. The far flung and remote villages, particularly near the Line of Control (LoC), voters are out to cast their votes. Long queues could also be seen in some areas, including Keran, Karnah, Uri, Sonawari.
Meanwhile, as dozens of far-flung and remote villages are within the five km range of the Line of Control (LoC), the authorities will shift polling stations, in the event of any ceasefire violation from across the border, particularly in Uri sector, where one person was killed and several houses were damaged in Pakistan shelling last month.
Besides state police, Central Paramilitary Forces (CPMF), troops from different Army units have also been deployed to provide a secure and safe environment to voters in the constituency.
There are nine candidates seeking mandate from the constituency. The main political parties are National Conference (NC), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Congress, Peoples Conference (PC) and Bharatiya Janata Party. Another candidate, Er Sheikh Abdul Rashid, supported by IAS-officer-turned politician Shah Faesal, is also in fray.
The campaigning, which remained by and large peaceful despite threat perception, for this north Kashmir Lok Sabha seat, ended on Tuesday. The Baramulla Parliamentary seat is the first to go to polls on Thursday among three Lok Sabha seats in the valley.
Muzaffar Hussain Baig of PDP won from the constituency, after he polled in 1,75,277 votes in 2014, followed by NC candidate Sharifuddin Shariq 1,46,058, Salamuddin Bajad of PC 71,154 and Er Rashid 22,090 votes. BJP candidate Ghulam Mohamamd Mir garnered just 6,550 votes, which was 1.41 per cent votes polled in 2014. As many as 4,568 chose the None of the Above (NOTA) option. Returning Officer for Baramulla Parliamentary Constituency G N Itoo said for smooth conduct of elections, 1749 polling stations have been established at 1387 locations. 'Ramp facility has also been made available all polling stations for differently-abled persons and senior citizens, so that they can exercise their franchise to vote,' he further said. He informed that many polling stations have been designated, where CCTV cameras will be installed for Live Web Casting. 'Places like Kamalkote, which otherwise have almost no connectivity, have been provided with alternate arrangements, in consultation with the Army and police,' Mr Itoo added. (UNI)