Kashmir's Last Constituency Goes To Polls Tomorrow

6 May 2014
Samiya Latief

Srinagar: One of the most interesting constituencies going to polls on May 7 is Baramulla in North Kashmir. This is one of the 64 constituencies going to polls on Wednesday in the eighth phase of the Lok Sabha elections. Given the hyper-sensitivity and the candidates, this seat will be a tough one for all the political parties. This seat has generally been with the ruling National Conference (NC) but the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has always given a tough competition to its opposition here. This time the situation is going to be tougher than previously as it will not only be these two main parties fighting, but the Awami Itihaad Party (AIP) and the People's Conference (PC), as well, which are both major challenges to former two. Both the NC and the PDP have fielded strong candidates in Baramulla. Showing its trust and confidence in sitting MP Sharief-ud-Din Shariq, the NC's choice for the contest has remained unchanged. The PDP however, chose to change its candidate for this seat by fielding sitting MLA Muzaffar Hussain Baig. Baig is considered the most trusted face in the party and, being a native of Baramulla, can turn the tables in his favour. The AIP's president Engineer Abdul Rashid, currently an MLA from Langate Kupwara, is also a candidate for this constituency and has a good reputation with the common people. The People's Conference has fielded ex-government official Salaam Bajaad instead of Sajad Lone, the party's chairman who was expected to contest the elections himself, as he did in 2009, but lost. The entry of new players in the already tough competition will surely divide the votes and can throw surprising results on May 16. A total of 18 candidates are in the fray. This constituency is different from the others because of its security issues as well. Heavy security arrangements have already been put in place to ensure safe and secure polls. The boycott call has already come from separatists for the entire elections and people have been asked to observe a general hartal on Wednesday. With incidents like the IED blast in North Kashmir on Tuesday morning that caused damage to an entire polling booth, it is surely going to be one of the most crucial parts of the elections in Kashmir. Earlier, posters were put up in some areas of the constituency by the militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen, asking people to boycott voting. Over 30,000 police and paramilitary personnel have been deployed to ensure smooth polls in this constituency. Besides this, the army is also sanitising the area to prevent militant strikes. A large number of security forces have been deployed in the trouble spots and sensitive places like old town Baramulla, Sopore town, and the towns of Pattan, Palhallan and Hajin, where stone pelting is commonplace. Reports also said police have cracked down on stone-pelters in north Kashmir and arrested around 200 of them in the past three days. On the basis of security, there are 1091 hypersensitive and 455 sensitive polling booths, and only 70 normal polling booths. The constituency is spread over Baramulla, Kupwara and Bandipora districts.