Srinagar: The first phase of voting for the state assembly elections is set to be held on Tuesday in Kashmir where the ruling party is facing a rout by the opposition.
Over a million voters registered with the Election Commission of India in 15 assembly segments of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh regions are expected to exercise their franchise on Tuesday for deciding the fate of the ruling party which has been marred by charges of corruption, misgovernance and rights abuses.
“12 sitting MLAs, including seven ministers, are among 123 candidates trying their luck in 15 constituencies that will go to polls on Tuesday,” PTI news agency reported.
“More than 200 battalions of central forces have been deployed in 15 constituencies to ensure there is no violence on the day of elections,” a senior Jammu Kashmir Police officer who didn’t wish to be named.
Authorities have also launched a crackdown against anti-election protesters and Hurriyat leaders to ensure incident-free polls with over 300 detentions made every week, as per as a report in Indian Express.
Capitalizing on the anti-incumbency wave against chief minister Omar Abdullah’s National Conference and buoyed by the victory in the recent Lok Sabha elections – the party won three out of six seats in the region, the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) is hoping to form the next government which will be a historic first in the Muslim majority state.
The party has reportedly set up its base in a hotel in Srinagar where a team of BJP strategists are working closely to increase their party’s membership in the Kashmir Valley under “Mission 44+”, but many political analysts and journalists say it is going to be a “tough road” ahead for the party.
The PDP which won three Lok Sabha seats in the recent parliamentary elections in Kashmir Valley was emerging as a strong contender to form the next government but the September 7 floods and some controversial inducts into the party took away the sheen from its poll prospects.
“We will form the next government in the state,” a PDP spokesperson said.
Officials say there has been less violence ahead of elections in the region as compared to previous elections which may encourage people who have traditionally stayed away from polling booths to come out and vote.
“The situation has been peaceful and we are hoping that calm prevails till the end of polling day,” Shah Faisal, the district administrator of Bandipora which is going to polls on Tuesday, said.
He said 74 battalions of central forces have been deployed in Bandipora where 24 candidates are in the fray with 13 from Bandipora, 7 from Sumbal and 4 from Gurez.
The Hurriyat leaders including pro-Pakistan Syed Ali Geelani and pro-independence Yasin Malik have called for a general strike on Tuesday in protest against the election.
Nearly 1800 polling stations have been set up in the region and the polling will begin at 8 am.