Polling Begins In Anantnag Constituency, Crucial Test For Mehbooba Mufti

ANANTNAG, JAMMU AND KASHMIR: Voting began in Jammu and Kashmir’s Anantnag assembly constituency on a dull note amid high security arrangements today, from where Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti is contesting, against the backdrop of boycott calls by separatist leaders and terrorist outfits.

Voters were seen in twos and fours walking leisurely towards the polling stations.

Reports from the rural areas also said early voter enthusiasm and queues of people outside polling stations were conspicuous by their absence.

Authorities, however, said voting was likely to pick up later in the day. The voting started at 7am and will end at 6pm.

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti is contesting elections from Anantnag to enter the state legislature — a mandatory requirement for any chief minister of the state to fulfil within six months of being sworn in.

Apart from Ms Mufti of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), there are seven other candidates contesting including Iftikhar Hussain Misgar of the National Conference (NC) and Hilal Ahmad Shah of the Congress.

None of the rivals in these by-elections poses a serious challenge to her, but her main worry is the voter turnout.

This seat was represented in the 87-member state assembly by her father who passed away on January 7 this year.

The entire south Kashmir area including the districts of Anantnag, Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam has traditionally been a political stronghold of the PDP.

In 2014 assembly elections, Mr Sayeed had defeated Mr Shah of the Congress by 6,000 votes and anything less than that victory margin would, at a perceptional level, not go down well for either Mehbooba Mufti or her party.

Votes would be counted on June 25 and the result would be announced the same day.