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Campaigning ends in Srinagar

Stage set for high-stakes polls on May 13
01:15 AM May 12, 2024 IST | MUKEET AKMALI
campaigning ends in srinagar
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Srinagar, May 11:  The high-stakes campaigning for the Srinagar Parliamentary constituency drew to a close on Saturday evening, paving the way for a crucial electoral battle on May 13.

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Authorities have implemented strict measures, including prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC, to ensure a smooth and peaceful polling process.

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The restrictions, effective from 6 pm on May 11 (Saturday) until 6 pm on May 13 (Monday), prohibit unlawful assemblies, processions, rallies, and public meetings related to the elections. This move aims to provide the 17,47,810 eligible voters with an environment free from campaigning influences before they exercise their democratic rights.

The high-stakes contest in Srinagar has attracted a diverse array of 24 candidates from various political parties and independent groups. Among the prominent contenders are Aga Syed Ruhullah Mehdi from the National Conference, Waheed Ur Rehman Parra from the Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party, Muhammad Ashraf Wani from the J&K Apni Party, and Amir Bhat from the Democratic Progressive Azad Party. Other notable candidates include Hakikat Singh from the J&K National Panthers Party (BHIM), Rubina Akhter from the Party Loktantrik Party, and several independent candidates.

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“A total of 17,47,810 lakh voters have been enrolled in phase IV, including 8,75,938 male and 8,71,808 female voters besides 64 third gender electorates. There are around 11682 Persons with Disability and 705 persons above the age of 100 years who will also be exercising their franchise”, read a communiqué received from the office of the Chief Electoral Officer, J&K.

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The communiqué adds that around 2,135 polling stations have been set up in the fourth phase across 5 districts of Srinagar, Pulwama, Budgam, Ganderbal and Shopian (37- Shopian). The election staff including Presiding Officers will be stationed in every polling station. In total, more than 8,500 polling staff, including reserve will be deployed on duty on the polling day.

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The communication added that the voting will take place from 7.00 am to 6 pm and before that, there will be a mock poll in the polling stations in the presence of the polling agents. Also, the voting will continue even after 6.00 pm, if the voter’s queue is still there in the Polling Station premises to exercise their right to vote.

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Every polling station will be provided with Assured Minimum Facilities (AMFs) like drinking water, electricity, a toilet, a ramp, furniture, verandah and a shed besides wheelchairs will also be provided to the needy. The ballot unit will also have a list of contesting candidates in Braille script. Wherever required, there will be separate queues for senior citizens and specially-abled persons facilitating them with early polling. Additionally, there will be a voter help desk, manned by the concerned Booth Level Officer (BLO).

There will be 20 polling booths managed by women (also called as pink polling stations), 18 polling booths manned by specially-abled persons and 17 by youths. Also, there will be 21 green polling stations to spread the message about environmental concerns. The purpose behind this special polling station is to spread awareness among sections of society like women, specially-abled, and first-time young voters to come forward and exercise their right to vote.

Aimed to facilitate voter identification and increase voter turnout ratio, all voters have been provided with voter information slips with all requisite information like Polling Station name, date and time of the poll, serial number of voter in the list, his full name, QR code but not the photograph of the voter. Hence, the voter Information Slips will not be allowed as proof of the identity of voters.

Also, the citizens can view details of the Polling Station, and Parliamentary Constituency and get the contact details of the Booth Level Officer, and Electoral Registration Officer among other services, through the Voter Helpline App (VHA). This mobile app is available on the Google Play store and Apple App Store.

In addition to the Electoral Photo Identity Card (EPIC), 12 types of documents will also be allowed to verify a voter and allow him to vote. EPIC card is not mandatory for voting. The requisite documents included Aadhaar Card, MGNREGA Job Card, passbooks with photograph, Health Insurance Smart Card issued under the scheme of the Ministry of Labour, Driving License,  PAN Card, Smart Card issued by RGI under NPR,  Indian Passport, Pension document with photograph, Service Identity Cards with photograph issued to employees by Central/StateGovt./PSUs/Public Limited Companies, Official identity cards issued to MPs/MLAs/MLCs and   Unique Disability ID (UDID) Card, issued by Union Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry.

To spread awareness among the voters, Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) emerges as a comprehensive programme aimed at reinforcing voter education and promoting active participation in the democratic process. During the last few months, through various modes, SVEEP activities were held in every nook and corner. Various activities like appeal messages in print, electronic and social media, through hoardings, banners, and radio jingles were carried out.

Street plays and, the use of social media influencers and icons were also done. Because of all these, the voter turnout is expected to be higher than the last Lok Sabha election. Awareness events in Dal Lake, Mughal Gardens, Lal Chowk, Shehar-E-Khas etc places in Srinagar and similar places in other districts were held.

More than 40 percent of home voting for above 85 age and disability was held at door steps for all those who applied.

The document further read that more than 600 journalists and cameramen of print, electronic and social media platforms have been provided with a pass to cover the polling process without compromising the secrecy of the vote and causing any inconvenience to the democratic exercise.

Besides, the Voter Turnout App will be used to display the estimated provisional voter turnout details of each Parliamentary Constituency entered by the RO. The media can also use the same application to capture estimated voter turnout data. Approximate voter turnout data for each phase of the elections will be displayed through this app. There will be two hourly reports of voting percentage from 9 am to the end of the poll. The concerned ARO and RO will share the data with the media accordingly.

All polling stations in phase 4 will have CCTV cameras for live webcasting to the control rooms established at the district and CEO offices. There are few polling stations which fall in communication shadow areas. Suitable alternate arrangements by providing Satellite Phones, Wireless sets and Special Runners have been put in place around a few polling stations which fall in communication shadow areas.

Candidates/ Political parties need to obtain prior permission for campaigning purposes by seeking online permission on the Suvidha app. To date, election officers have accorded permission for 1556 applications and rejected 271.

In the entire Union Territory, from the date of announcement of the election till date material/cash of around Rs 44.23 crore has been seized by various enforcing departments. Cash, liquor, drugs and other freebees have been seized by various enforcing departments like the Police Department valued at Rs 40.56 Crore, the Income Tax Department valuing 32 lacs, the Excise Department around 85 lacs, and the Narcotics Control Bureau seized drugs worth 2.32 Crore.

As per the communication, the public campaigning in areas of the Srinagar Parliamentary Constituency has concluded at 6 pm here today on May 11, 48 hours before the conduct of the elections. No one, including citizens, journalists, or politicians, would be allowed to partake in any election campaign-related activity.

Holding public meetings, conferences, and interviews has been stopped to give the voters a peaceful break from being influenced by campaigns so that they may make a considered decision while voting. Besides, political advertisement in print media can only be done after prior clearance from the Media Certification and Monitoring Committee (MCMC).

The sale of liquor, even from licensed shops, has also been banned. To date, 108 grievances have been received on the C-VIGIL app and more than 60 percent resolved in time and others are under resolution. For filing Model Code of Conduct Violation cases by the citizens, the C-VIGIL app provides time-stamped evidentiary proof of the Model Code of Conduct/Expenditure Violation by empowering every citizen to click a photo or video using his or her Smartphone.

To monitor various election-related activities and also check MCC compliance, a Command and Control Room has been established at the CEO office, Jammu with similar mini control rooms at every DEO office which are functioning 24x7. Apart from looking for MCC violations, the Control room gets live feed from more than 100 percent of polling stations and GPS vehicle tracking of all vehicles being used for poll parties.

The Communication also adds that as per the latest instructions of the Election Commission of India Special Polling Stations have been established for migrant voters of the Kashmir division. A total of 26 Special Polling Stations have been established with 21 polling stations in Jammu, 4 in Delhi and 1 in Udhampur district. Special Polling Station-wise extract voter list will be with BLOs.

The communication also quotes, “We encourage the voters to participate in the maximum number in the biggest festival of the largest democracy of the world.”

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