15.35 Lakh Voters To Seal Fate Of 175 Candidates In Phase-II

29 November 2014
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: About 15.35 lakh electorates apart from over 17,000 Kashmiri migrant voters were eligible to cast votes for 18 Assembly constituencies, which would go to polls in second phase of the polling in Jammu and Kashmir on December 2, the campaigning for which would end at 6 pm tomorrow. Fate of 175 candidates including four sitting Ministers, several former Ministers, sitting legislators and formidable Independent candidates, some of them BJP and NC rebels, would be decided in December 2 polling. The Election Commission was expecting brisk polling in Phase-II also after heavy turnout of 71.28 per cent in the Phase-I in which 15 constituencies had gone to votes. Reasi Assembly segments in Jammu region has highest number of 1,08,084 voters while Karnah constituency in Kupwara district of Kashmir has lowest 32,794 electorates in 18 segments, spread over five districts of the State voting on December 2. Three constituencies each of Udhampur, Reasi and Poonch districts in Jammu region, five segments of Kupwara and four of Kulgam districts in Kashmir Valley will have elections on December 2. Campaigning for all these segments will stop at 6 pm tomorrow, official sources said. The Election Commission has set up 2181 polling stations for 15.35 lakh electorates, they added. Four Ministers, whose fate will be decided in Phase-II polling are CAPD Minister Choudhary Mohammad Ramzan (Handwara), Social Welfare Minister Sakina Itoo (Noorabad), Law & Parliamentary Affairs Minister Saifullah Mir (Kupwara) and Minister of State for Revenue Aijaz Khan (Gool-Arnas). Former Ministers in the fray are Harshdev Singh (Ramnagar), Abdul Gani Malik (Gulabgarh), Jugal Kishore Sharma and Jagjivan Lal (Reasi), Mushtaq Ahmad Bukhari (Surankot), Nissar Khan (Independent-Mendhar) and Abdul Gaffar Sofi (Homshalibugh) among others. Deputy Speaker Sartaj Madni and Deputy Chairman Legislative Council Javed Rana were also in fray from Devsar and Mendhar constituencies as PDP and NC candidates respectively. Of 18 Assembly segments, NC holds maximum number of seven in the present Assembly followed by three each by PDP and Congress, NPP two, BJP, CPM and Independent one each. There are five MLAs in 18 segments, who have never lost an election since 1996 and were seeking fourth straight term. They are Harshdev Singh (NPP-Ramnagar), Abdul Gani Malik (NC-Gulabgarh), MY Tarigami (CPM-Kulgam), Kafeel-ur-Rehman (NC-Karnah) and Saifullah Mir (NC-Kupwara). Harshdev Singh is involved in direct contest with BJP's RS Pathania though Vinod Khajuria of Congress and other candidates were also in the fray in Ramnagar while BJP's Dina Nath Bhagat, Dhani Ram Atri (JKNPP) and Krishan Chander Bhagat, sitting MLA of Congress were involved in triangular contest for Chenani (Reserve seat). BJP rebel and formidable Independent candidate Pawan Gupta was involved in triangular contest with sitting NPP MLA Balwant Singh Mankotia and BJP candidate Pawan Khajuria though Congress, PDP, NC and BSP nominees were also in the fray. Gupta today displayed his strength by holding a huge rally in Udhampur. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had yesterday addressed a massive rally for all six candidates of BJP in Udhampur and Reasi districts including Pawan Khajuria. However, majority of BJP leaders including office bearers, Sarpanchs and Panchs have openly come out in support of Gupta. Sitting MLA Mankotia will display his strength tomorrow by holding a rally on last day of campaigning. In Reasi also, the BJP was facing revolt from sitting party MLA Baldev Sharma, who is in the fray on being denied party mandate. Apart from Sharma, two strong Independent candidates-Saraf Singh (backed by PDP) and Karnail Singh were giving tough fight to two former Ministers-Jugal Kishore (Congress) and Jagjivan Lal (NC) and BJP's Ajay Nanda among others. Aijaz Ahmad Khan (Congress) is involved in quadrangular fight with BJP's Kuldeep Raj Dubey alias Mangu Shah, NC's Shamshad Bano and PDP's Imtiyaz Ahmad Shan. In Gulabgarh, NC's three times MLA Abdul Gani Malik, former Minister is facing PDP's Shafiq-ur-Rehman and BJP's Pardeep Singh among others. Poonch-Haveli constituency has become political battle zone with several bigwigs being in the fray including sitting NC MLA Aijaz Ahmad Jan, Pardeep Sharma (BJP), Shah Mohammad Tantray (PDP), Choudhary Bashir Naz (Congress) and Choudhary Abdul Gani (NC rebel). Modi, Rahul Gandhi, Omar Abdullah, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Mehbooba Mufti among others were prominent leaders, who campaigned for their party candidates. In Surankote, Choudhary Mohammad Akram, son of prominent Congress leader Choudhary Aslam, who had passed away recently, is facing Mushtaq Bukhari, former Minister (NC) and Iqbal Hussain Shah (PDP) among others. In Mendhar, PDP has replaced its sitting MLA Sardar Rafiq Khan with Mohammad Mahroof Khan, who was facing NC's Javed Rana, Deputy Chairman, Legislative Council and Murtaza Khan (Congress) among others.