Srinagar, 24 Nov 2014 : A million voters will get to decide the political fate of 123 candidates who are in the fray in the first phase of the Jammu and Kashmir assembly elections to be held Tuesday.
Poll campaign for the first phase ended Sunday evening as thousands of security forces and hundreds of poll officials started reaching polling stations in seven districts of the state where voting would be held Tuesday.
Two districts in the Kashmir Valley, Bandipora and Ganderbal, two in the Ladakh region, Kargil and Leh, and three in the Jammu region, Ramban, Doda and Kishtwar, will get to vote Nov 25 for 123 candidates of various parties and independents who are in the fray.
Seven ministers of the ruling Congress-NC coalition are seeking re-elections in this phase from Leh, Kangan, Sonawari, Gurez, Banihal, Kishtwar and Doda constituencies which they also represent as sitting legislators in the 87-member assembly.
Interestingly, there are just two female candidates in the race in this round.
As many as 1,050,250 electors, including 549,696 males, 500,539 females and 15 belonging to the third gender, would exercise their franchise at 1,787 polling stations in the 15 assembly constituencies Tuesday.
The highest number of voters, 104,354, are in Bhaderwah assembly constituency while the lowest, 13,054, are in Nubra constituency.
The highest number of candidates, 13 each, are trying their luck in Bhaderwah and Bandipora constituencies while there are just two candidates in the fray in the Leh constituency.
Polling starts at 8 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
The Election Commission has arranged for videographing of many poll stations during the first phase.
As many as 275 companies of central paramilitary forces and the state police have been deployed in strength to secure polling stations across the state and provide security to voters in this first phase.
There are 27 polling stations in Zanskar and Gurez assembly constituencies, to where the poll staff and security forces would have to be airlifted if the weather conditions in these areas deteriorate, a senior poll official told IANS in Srinagar.
Two main regional parties in Jammu and Kashmir – the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – are locked in a do or die electoral battle while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress too are giving the pols their best shot.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi hit the poll campaign in Kishtwar constituency Saturday where more than 30,000 people turned out to hear him.
Modi appealed people to end the over-50 years long dynastic rule in the state without directly naming the Congress and the NC that have been in power alternately or in alliance during the last half century.
Modi told voters to end the dynastic rule and vote for the BJP if they wanted to usher in an era of development and prosperity in Kashmir.
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi also addressed two election rallies in Ramban and Bandipora constituencies Friday to garner support for her party’s candidates.
Campaigning by the NC and the PDP remained at high pitch in both the Jammu region and the Kashmir Valley where senior leaders of the two regional parties spoke of common man’s problems, Article 370, corruption, preserving the eclectic culture of the state.
Poll campaign in Kashmir and the Jammu region witnessed a large participation by the supporters of various parties and their candidates as party flags, banners and buntings dotted the rural areas where the voters are expected to come out in large numbers to choose their representatives.
(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)