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Amid high security, polling begins for Anantnag LS seat

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Amid high security, voting began for the second phase of polls in south Kashmir’s Anantnag Lok Sabha seat on Monday.

Polling began at 7 a.m. and will end at 4 p.m, two hours earlier than scheduled due to “security reasons.” Reports said very few people were seen queuing up outside the polling stations in four assembly segments of Kulgam district - Noorabad, Devsar, Kulgam and Homshalibugh.

As a precautionary measure, mobile Internet services have been suspended in the south Kashmir areas while intra-Kashmir train services between Baramulla and Banihal have also been cancelled for the day.

Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency comprises four restive districts of Anantnag, Kulgam, Pulwama and Shopian. In the first leg, Anantnag district voted during the third phase of the general elections on April 23, with a low turnout of 13.61 percent. Polling for the Anantnag parliamentary seat will end during the fifth phase on May 6 when the twin districts of Pulwama and Shopian vote.

Owing to the prevailing security scenario in southern Kashmir, the Election Commission in an unprecedented move decided to hold the election for the single constituency in three phases.

All the 433 polling booths in Kulgam district have been designated as hypersensitive. Polling stations for migrant Kashmiri pandits have been set up at Jammu, Udhampur and New Delhi.

Regional PDP president and former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who is facing an uphill task of retaining the seat is pitted against senior Congress leader and JKPCC chief GA Mir and the judge-turned politician Hassnain Masoodi of National Conference. Overall there are 18 candidates in the fray in the constituency.

Polling in southern Kashmir is being keenly watched within and outside Kashmir, as the region has been on the edge since the killing of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on 8 July 2016.

In April 2017, the government, fearing violence had to cancel by-elections that were necessitated for the Anantnag seat after Mehbooba vacated it to return to state politics.

Campaigning in the constituency was a low-key campaign with no major rallies held as public meetings were largely confined behind closed doors in government rest houses and town halls.

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