Day before election, troops take position

Day before election, troops take position
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Srinagar Lok Sabha seat goes to polls today amid ‘micro observers, videographers, flying squads’

Srinagar: A thick blanket of government forces enveloped Srinagar on Wednesday a day ahead of Lok Sabha elections for the Srinagar constituency. Scores of policemen and central armed forces carrying assault rifles were deployed at election booths across the constituency. They were brought to the polling stations in huge convoys of passenger buses and cabs.
At Sri Pratap College in the heart of Srinagar’s MA Road, where a polling station has been established, hundreds of soldiers and policemen started arriving since Tuesday. They took position inside as well as outside the educational institution. A thick layer of security forces was deployed on the road leading to the institution. They carried out frisking of people, including staffers, before they entered the college.
A similar scene was witnessed at government degree college Bemina where scores of buses carrying armed soldiers and election staff arrived since early morning.
The security bandobast affected class work at educational institutions where polling booths were established. The government has ordered closure of schools and colleges on the day of the election.
The government has established multilayered security to prevent any disruption in the polling exercise in the face of heightened militant threats. Last Sunday, the entire city was on high alert after an intelligence input about an attack akin to the February 14 attack on the national highway.
An official said that all the polling booths have been secured. In the 2017 by-polls for the Srinagar parliamentary constituency, massive protests and violence took place in which eight civilians were killed. In Budgam, which is part of the Srinagar constituency, civilian Farooq Ahmad Dar was tied to the bonnet of an army jeep and paraded around several villages by Major Leetul Gogoi of the Indian Army.
This year, security arrangements including flying squads, micro-observers and videographers, besides zonal and sector magistrates deployed to ensure free and fair polling, have been made.
District Election Officer Dr Shahid Iqbal Choudhary said that for complete transparency and fairness in polling, elaborate arrangements have been put in place everywhere in the constituency. He said that 1,716 polling stations have been established for 12,94,560 electors in Srinagar constituency and 12 candidates are standing in the election.
Meanwhile, Srinagar city saw very few public buses on the roads as most of them had been hired for ferrying government forces and election staffers. This caused huge inconvenience to people who were seen either walking or hiring auto-rickshaws to reach their destinations.
Chairman of Kashmir Transporters Welfare Association, Haji Mohammad Yusuf, told Kashmir Reader that almost 1,000 minibuses and 650 buses were taken to transport government forces. About 600 vehicles were taken from the State Road Transport Corporation (SRTC) for election duty purposes, he said. The city has about 1,400 minibuses on roads, he informed.
National Conference president Farooq Abdullah is seeking re-election from the constituency that he lost to the PDP in 2014 but won again in the 2017 by-election. He is facing Agha Mohsin of PDP, Khalid Jehangir of BJP, and Irfan Ansari of PC. Srinagar is considered a stronghold of NC as the 83-year-old Abdullah has lost the seat only once in 2014, when the entire party was routed in Jammu and Kashmir. After the resignation of Tariq Karra from both the PDP and the Parliament, Abdullah regained the seat in the 2017 by-poll, which saw the lowest-ever poll turnout in Srinagar’s electoral history.