Penultimate round of Jammu and Kashmir polls will see rivals fight it out

December 16th, 2008 - 1:43 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartySrinagar/Jammu Dec 16 (IANS) Jammu and Kashmir votes Wednesday in the sixth and penultimate phase of its staggered assembly elections that have seen mass participation despite boycott calls from separatists. This round will decide the electoral fates of former chief ministers Mufti Muhammad Sayeed and Ghulam Nabi Azad.Polls will be held in 16 constituencies in five districts - 10 constituencies of Anantnag and Kulgam districts in the Kashmir Valley and six constituencies of Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban districts of Jammu region.

While Sayeed of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is fighting from Anantnag constituency, Azad of the Congress is seeking re-election from Bhaderwah in Doda district.

The main contest in the valley’s south Kashmir constituencies will be between the National Conference and the PDP though candidates from the Congress, the Panthers Party, Samajwadi Party (SP), Lok Janshakti Party, Awami National Conference, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) besides independents are also in the race.

In Noorabad in Kulgam, former minister and senior PDP leader Abdul Aziz Zargar is seeking re-election. Sakina Itoo of the National Conference poses a serious challenge to Zargar’s chances of staging a comeback from the constituency.

In Kulgam, Muhammad Yusuf Tarigami, state general secretary of the CPI-M, is seeking re-election. His main rival is Safdar Ali Khan of the National Conference and Nazir Ahmad Laway of PDP.

In Homeshalibugh in Anantnag district, PDP’s Abdul Gaffar Sofi is seeking re-election against Abdul Majeed of the National Conference and Anayatullah Rather (Congress).

In Anantnag constituency, PDP patron and former chief minister Sayeed has decided to challenge Mirza Mehboob Beigh, provincial president of the National Conference who is seeking re-election from there.

The focus in the sixth phase is obviously going to remain on this constituency as the voters there would seal the fate of at least one of these two contestants.

In Devsar, Sayeed’s brother-in-law and senior PDP leader Muhammad Sartaj Madni is seeking re-election. He is pitted against Peerzada Ghulam Ahmad Shah of the National Conference and Muhammad Amin Bhat of Congress.

In Dooru, senior Congress leader Ghulam Ahmad Mir is seeking re-election against Syed Farooq Ahmad Andrabi of PDP and Muhammad Akbar Ganie of the National Conference.

Mir had been arrested here in 2006 in a sex racket and his reputation had taken a serious beating. But the Congress decided to field him again.

In Kokernag, former minister and ex-president of the state Congress unit, Peerzada Muhammad Sayeed, is seeking re-election. He faces a formidable challenge from Sehar Iqbal of PDP and Gulam Nabi Bhat of the National Conference.

In Shangus, the PDP, which won the seat in 2002, has this time changed its candidate and fielded Peerzada Mansoor Hussain. He is fighting against Muhammad Syed Khan of the National Conference and Gulzar Ahmad Wani of the Congress.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited the constituency Dec 14 to seek votes for the Congress.

In Bijbehara, the home constituency of the Sayeeds, Abdul Rehman Bhat of PDP is seeking re-election and is challenged mainly by Bashir Ahmad Shah of the National Conference.

In Pahalgam, which was won by PDP president Mehbooba Mufti in 2002, the PDP has this time fielded Rafi Ahmad Mir who is challenged by Altaf Ahmad Wani of the NC and Abdul Gani Bhat of the Congress.

South Kashmir constituencies, most of which had been won by the PDP in 2002 elections, are still regarded as strongholds of the party and the chances of the PDP staking claim to power in the state would largely depend on its performance in these constituencies.

In the three districts of Jammu region - Kishtwar, Doda and Ramban - where two constituencies in each district go to vote on Wednesday, 559 polling stations have been set up for the voters.

In Kishtwar constituency, the contest is mainly between PDP’s Asghar Ali and National Conference’s Sajjad Kichloo who had won Kishtwar constituency in 2002, but this time around PDP has made significant gains there.

In Doda constituency, the contest is essentially between Abdul Majid Wani of the Congress, who had won this seat as an independent in 2002 and later joined the Congress and National Conference’s Khalid Najeeb Suharwardy.

In Inderwal constituency, Abdul Karim Wani, the National Conference candidate is likely to give a tough fight to Ghulam Moahmmad Saroori of the Congress.

Saroori, a former minister, had won elections from Inderwal in 2002.

In Bhaderwah constituency, former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad of the Congress is pitted against National Conference’s Mohammad Aslam Goni who is expected to give a semblance of contest there.

Azad had won this constituency with a huge margin of 58,000 in a bye-election in April 2006. His nearest BJP rival had lost his deposit. There are 19 candidates in the fray in this constituency.

PDP’s Mujib Ali does not having much following, though BJP’s Daya Krishan Kotwal is expected to garner Hindu votes in the constituency of 94,972 voters.

In 2006, Azad’s cousin and then sitting legislator, Muhammad Sharif Naaz of the Congress resigned the seat to make way for Azad’s entry into the 87-member state legislative assembly.

In Ramban, Chaman Lal of the National Conference is seeking re-elections against Ashok Kumar of the Congress, Bali Bhagat of the BJP and Shakeel Singh of the PDP.

In Banihal, Sajad Shaheen of the National Conference is fighting elections among others against Bahar Ahmad Runiyal of the PDP, Vikar Rasool Wani of the Congress and Rajeev Rajput of the BJP.

An independent candidate, Abdul Rashid is emerging as the toughest challenge for all other contestants in Banihal.

The maximum number of contestants for any single constituency among those going to vote on Wednesday is in Banihal where 24 candidates are trying their luck this time.

The polls will see a total of 704,466 voters in the 10 constituencies of the Kashmir Valley and 460,943 in six constituencies of Jammu region eligible to elect representatives for the 87-member legislature in the state.

There are 271 candidates in the fray. Of them, 173 are contesting from the valley and 98 from Jammu region.

In Anantnag and Kulgam, 709 polling stations have been set up while in Kishtwar, Doda and Ramban districts, 559 polling stations have been set up for the voters.

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