Srinagar: Anantnag constituency, which falls in the militancy-hit south Kashmir region of Jammu and Kashmir, will witness three-phase elections. This is unprecedented given that a three phase election has never been held in a single constituency.
Explaining the move, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said, "We will have to carry out three phases of election for just one constituency of Anantnag... so you can imagine how complicated it is."
The events unfolding in and around the state — the issue of national security to be more precise — over the last one month has become the central plank in the BJP's campaign. He further said that the commission has been studying the feasibility of holding elections as the state passes through a sensitive phase after the Pulwama attack.
The Anantnag constituency was represented by Mehbooba Mufti in 2014 Lok Sabha polls. She secured 2,00,429 of the total votes, with a vote share of 53.41 percent. The parliamentary seat was vacated by Mehbooba when she became the CM following her father Mufti Mohammad Syed’s death.
Since then, no bypolls were held for the seat due to law and order situation.
Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency has 16 Assembly segments, all of which fall in south Kashmir. All these Assembly segments have been reeling under violence for the last five years.
On the other hand, the state elections that are due have also been postponed indefinitely. Jammu and Kashmir right now is under President’s Rule.
Given the unrelenting violence the state has witnessed since July 2016 with the death of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani, protests against jailing of separatists, NIA raids, crackdown on Jamaat-e-Islami, the Pulwama attack, unrest over article 370 and 35A, the EC will have perhaps its toughest assignment in the state.
Getting people to come out and vote will be a huge challenge given what happened in the last two parliamentary bypolls that were scheduled in the state. Srinagar bypoll saw a voter turnout of 7% and the Anantnag bypoll was never conducted. For the first time in nearly three decades the polls had to be cancelled due to poor response and bad law and order situation.
In the recent municipal polls, while some areas in Jammu saw a voter turnout of nearly 80%, the Valley registered a voter turnout of 8%.
The state will vote in the Lok Sabha elections in five phases on April 11, April 18, April 23, April 29 and May 6.
Political parties in Jammu and Kashmir have been seeking state elections after a series of controversial decisions by the government since the state was placed under Governor's Rule in November — five months after the ruling alliance split.