After a high voltage campaign, polling begins for the first phase of Lok Sabha Election 2019 in ninety-one constituencies spread across 18 states and two union territories amidst a strict security cover.
In Jammu Kashmir, Baramulla and Jammu will go to polls in this initial phase, as Valley is expecting two power-houses, National Conference (NC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to lock horns, while representatives of the national parties, Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will also have a say in Jammu, Engineer Rasheed and Sajjad Lone’s People’s Conference may also surprise the two main regional parties.
The voting began by early morning on Thursday at 1,749 polling stations at 1,387 locations in Baramulla constituency for 13,12,148 registered voters, in which 6,74,417 are males while 6,34,083 others are females, and 41 belongs to the third gender as well. The constituency has 7,953 Persons with Disability (PWD) voters and 157 Voter Verification and Information Programme (VVIP) electors.
Among these voters is Abdul Rashid Khan, a resident of Kunzer area in Tangmarg in North Kashmir’s Baramulla District who has queued up in a long line in a polling set up in a Government School in North Kashmir says that he has been voting for the past thirty years.
“Even during the peak of Militancy, i have voted, because i need better healthcare, better roads, we need jobs, my vote is not against Azadi, i have also been associated closely to Militancy, i have picked up the gun, i do not want sermons of Azadi from anybody,” Rashid told The Kashmiriyat.
Rashid says that he does not link Azadi with elections, “It is simple there is NC, there is PDP, There is congress and other parties, Is there any option for Azadi in the elections?” he asked. He thinks there are some people who draw such narratives on both sides, wanting the world to live by their way of life. “It is simply not acceptable, we do not buy their narratives, the people who vote matter, what they say about their votes and the elections is what matters and ask anyone in the queue, nobody is against the Freedom struggle,” he said, while pointing at a long queue of voters who have gathered here.
A School teacher who has not voted since his son, a famous militant of early 90s was killed by Indian Army during an encounter also feels that elections and the Freedom struggle are not the opposite roads. “It cannot be always my way or the highway, people have to make their choices, ask any voter, nobody is against Azadi, even these voters, they all want Freedom from India,”he thinks.
The Militant leadership across the border and prominent commanders including Zakir Musa and Riyaz Naikoo has asked people to stay away from the elections.
Baramulla LS seat is spread over 15 assembly segments including Karnah, Kupwara, Handwara Langate, Uri, Rafiabad, Sopore, Gure, Bandipora, Sonawari, Sangrama, Baramulla, Gulmarg and Pattan. Not being the hotbed of violence, Baramulla constituency is expecting decent voters’ turnout.
The Jammu-Poonch seat is the state’s largest parliamentary constituency, with an electorate size of over 20 lakh.
States going to polls on Thursday, April 11 are Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chandigarh, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha, Sikkim, Telangana, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, and UTs Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep. The results of the general elections will be declared on May 23.