Jammu and Kashmir fourth phase poll Sunday amid boycott call (Lead, Changing Dateline)

December 5th, 2008 - 7:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Jammu/ Srinagar, Dec 5 (IANS) As many as 18 constituencies go to the polls Sunday in the fourth of the staggered seven phase assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir in the backdrop of a boycott call by the separatists. Twelve of the constituencies are in the Kashmir Valley and six in the Hindu-dominated Jammu region. The state has an 87-member house. An estimated 1.4 million voters are eligible to exercise their franchise.

There are 902,951 eligible voters in the constituencies located in north Kashmir’s Baramulla and central Badgam districts. Baramulla district has 518,964 voters and Badgam 383,987.

In the Jammu region, there are 498,000 eligible voters who will have a choice of 81 candidates in the six constituencies of Udhampur and Reasi districts. There are 283,000 voters in Udhampur and 215,000 in Reasi.

The seats for which elections will be held are Udhampur, Chenani and Ramnagar (Scheduled Caste) in Udhampur district and Reasi, Arnas and Gulabgarh in Reasi.

Sunday’s polling in the Kashmir valley will decide the fate of as many as 13 senior politicians and former ministers. In all, 176 candidates are in the fray in seven constituencies of Baramulla and five of Badgam.

While each of the 12 constituencies in the Valley has local factors working for and against the candidates, the battle in Reasi and Udhampur districts in Jammu region promises multi-cornered contests.

In the Sopore constituency of Baramulla district, there are 24 candidates in the fray, but the main contest here is between the senior most Congress leader and former minister, Ghulam Rasool Kar, and Haji Abdul Rashid Dar of the Congress who is seeking a re-election here.

Dar was a minister in the Congress-led coalition government and had won the elections from Sopore in 2002 elections. The octogenarian Kar was denied a party ticket and is contesting as an independent here.

Although Sopore is the hometown of separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani and has traditionally been a stronghold of such forces, the highest number of candidates in the district are here.

It is going to be a combat between the voters’ will and Geelani’s call for a poll boycott in the apple-rich Sopore constituency.

In Rafiabad constituency of the same district, former minister Muhammad Dilawar Mir of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is seeking re-election and is challenged by Congress leader and former minister Abdul Gani Vakil, besides another formidable candidate, Javaid Ahmad Dar, of the regional National Conference (NC).

In the border Uri constituency, former minister and Congress leader Taj Mohiuddin is seeking another term but faces a serious challenge from Muhammad Shafi Uri of the NC.

Though Mohiuddin had defeated Shafi in the 2002 elections here, the NC believes there is anti-incumbency working against the former and will help it.

In Pattan constituency, Shia leader and former minister Moulvi Ifftekhar Husain Ansari is fighting elections on a PDP ticket and is challenged by NC’s A.R. Shaheen, also a parliamentarian.

In Gulmarg, Sheikh Mustafa Kamal, former NC minister and younger brother of the party’s patron, Farooq Abdullah, is pitched once again against Gulam Hassan Mir of the Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Party. Mir, a former minister, is seeking re-election.

He had defeated Kamal here in the 2002 elections. A surprise entry in Gulmarg constituency is the PDP candidate, Gulam Mohiuddin, a retired principal who is emerging as a formidable foe for both Mir and Kamal in the constituency.

In Baramulla constituency, former deputy chief minister and PDP leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig is seeking re-election and is pitched mainly against Nazir Hussain Khan of the NC although other parties and independents are also in the fray here.

There are 105 contestants for the seven constituencies of Uri, Baramulla, Rafiabad, Sopore, Sangrama, Pattan and Gulmarg in Baramulla district.

The Election Commission has set up 743 polling stations in Baramulla district and of these 300 have been declared as sensitive and 443 as hyper-sensitive because of the security concerns in these areas.

There are five women contestants in the district.

In the central Badgam district, five constituencies including Badgam, Chadura, Khansahib, Beerwah and Charar-e-Sharief will go to polls. There are 71 candidates in the race.

In Chadura constituency, Javaid Mustafa Mir, former minister and PDP leader is seeking re-election and his biggest challenge comes from NC rival Ali Muhammad Dar in the constituency.

Senior NC leader and former minister Abdul Rahim Rather is seeking re-election and is pitched against PDP’s Gulam Nabi Lone in Charar-e-Sharief. The contest promises to be close here.

In Khansahib constituency, Hakim Muhammad Yasin, former minister and chairman of the People’s Democratic Front (PDF) is seeking re-election, but faces a stiff challenge from Saif-ud-Din Bhat of the PDP. Tariq Mohiuddin of the NC is also a contender.

Shia leader and NC candidate Aga Syed Roohullah Medhi is seeking re-election in Badgam.

Because of the large Shia population here, the NC candidate may have a smooth sailing. PDP’s Muhammad Kamal Malik is the main rival. Similarly, in Beerwah constituency, NC’s Abdul Majid Matoo seems comfortably placed but voters here have been unpredictable.

Shafi Muhammad Wani of the PDP challenges Matoo in Beerwah.

There are 429 polling stations in Badgam district and all have been described as sensitive, meaning there could be trouble there.

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