The first of three-phase polling for Lok Sabha polls in Anantnag constituency was held on Tuesday amidst tight security measures and witnessed 13.63 voter turnout.
The polling was held at 714 polling stations across the Anantnag district, which has six Assembly segments.
Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) J&K, Shailendra Kumar said overall poll percentage in the district was recorded 13.63 with highest 20.37 per cent in Pahalgam segment.
He said for smooth polling, ECI had setup 714 polling stations including 21 model polling stations, 12 all women model polling stations in the district.
The CEO said the percentage of the total votes polled in Anantnag segment was 3.47 per cent, Dooru 17.28, Kokernag 19.50, Shangus 15.10, Bijbehara 2.4 percent, Pahalgam 20.37 percent.
He said 4101 migrant votes were also polled.
Kumar said total percentage of voting till date in various parliamentary constituencies in the state including Baramulla, Jammu, Srinagar, Udhampur and Anantnag was recorded at 48.87 percent.
The election for Kulgam district would be held on April 29 and twin districts of Shopian and Pulwama on May 6.
All the polluting stations were heavily guarded by forces comprising police, paramilitary CRPF, ITBP and SSB.
At a polling station in Bijbehara, where the former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti cast her vote, police had setup dual-access control, where the cops were thoroughly frisking people entering the booth.
Around 50 forces personnel were deployed in and around the polling station.
There remained heavy deployment of troops in and around the polling stations.
In view of boycott and shutdown called by separatists, large contingents of forces were also deployed at major flash points in the district to maintain law and order.
The Quick Reaction Teams (QRT) teams were also on standby to deal with any contingency in the district.
In some areas, Army men were also deployed on roads to prevent stone pelting on polling stations.
The Anti-Riot Groups along with Anti-Roit Teams were also deployed at police stations Sirigufwara, Achabal, Anantnag, Kokernag Utersoo, Pahalgam, Dooru and Bijbehara in the district.
“During polling time, no incident took place,” said Kumar.
Asked whether the low voter turnout was a concern for ECI, the CEO said, “We generally expect and try that no voter is left behind in the electoral roll.
We expect everyone who is in the electoral rolls, goes and vote. But, we can’t force,” he said.
Although 18 candidates are in fray, the main contest is between PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, State congress chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir, National Conference candidate Hasnain Masoodi and BJP’s Sofi Yousuf.
Meanwhile, the poll boycott call and upsurge in militancy seemed to have played a part in a steep fall in the turnout in the Anantnag district of south Kashmir, which went to the polls on Tuesday. All the six Assembly segments of the district registered voter percentage lower than the 2014 polls.
The district recorded a dismal 13 per cent turnout, which is way below than the 40.21 polling witnessed in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in the district. The overall poll percentage in the four districts of the Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency was 28.88 in 2014.
Of the six Assembly segments — Anantnag, Dooru, Kokernag, Shangus, Bijbehara and Pahalgam, the lowest turnout was recorded in Bijbehara at over 2 per cent. In 2014, the figure was over 36 per cent. Bijbehara is the hometown of PDP president and former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and has been a traditional PDP bastion. The highest turnout was recorded in Pahalgam at over 20 per cent. In the previous elections, Pahalgam had registered over 55 per cent polling.
The Anantnag Assembly segment, which had witnessed 23.75 per cent voting in 2014, accounted for less than 4 per cent votes.
The Dooru Assembly segment, the native town of Congress candidate Ghulam Ahmed Mir, recorded a turnout of over 18 per cent. The Kokernag and Shangus segments, recorded a turnout of over 19 and 15 per cent, respectively.
Most of the polling stations in Bijbehara, the hometown of former Chief Minister and PDP president Mehooba Mufti, remained deserted as most residents did not vote on Tuesday.
The turnout here was a dismal 1.7 per cent with only 1,590 people casting their vote out of the estimated over 93,000 voters. This was the lowest voter turnout across Anantnag district on Tuesday.
The reasons for low turnout ranged from the poll boycott call by separatists, indifference towards the polls and resentment against the PDP.
Even as there were unprecedented security arrangements and presence of mediapersons, the polling stations remained deserted.
People came in trickles to cast their votes and the polling staff waited patiently for the polling time to get over.
“One voter every 30-40 minutes is what we have been receiving. The people do not seem to be interested at all,” a polling officer said at a booth. Of the 477 votes, only 12 votes had been cast at the polling booth by 3 pm.
Accompanied by her daughter, Mehbooba reached Bijbehara at 2.30 pm at the polling booth No. 35. At the booth, only 30 of the total 345 votes were cast.
Mehbooba posed for cameras after voting and told the reporters that she had complete faith in the people.
“They have, in the past, supported me overwhelmingly and I am sure that they will support me this time as well,” she said.
The home turf of former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, the Bijbehara Assembly segment under the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat, reported highest concentration of polling stations where zero votes were cast.
Among the 65 booths in Anantnag where zero votes were cast, 40 were located in Bijbehara, one of the six Assembly constituencies where voting took place in the third phase of the Lok Sabha elections Tuesday. People cast their votes in 714 polling stations in Anantnag.
Bijbehara, the home constituency of the PDP president Mufti, had 120 polling booths set up for a population of 93,289 people.
A total of 1,893 electorate or 2 per cent exercised their franchise when the polling ended at 4 pm. The voting time for the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat was reduced in view of security considerations.
The Baramulla Lok Sabha seat, where polling took place in the first phase, saw 17 stations with zero voting, while the Srinagar parliamentary seat, which went to the polls in the second phase, recorded zero votes in 90 booths.
Polling in Anantnag, which has 16 Assembly seats, has been divided into three phases. The first phase was completed on Tuesday, while voting for the remaining two will be held on April 29 and May 6.
The decision for staggered polling was taken keeping in view the security situation in south Kashmir which has seen many encounters between security forces and militants.
On February 14, 40 CRPF personnel were killed in a terror attack in Pulwama.