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Terror strikes cast a shadow on 3rd phase of J&K elections, Omar faces a tough battle in PDP stronghold

Out of the 16 seats where voting will take place on December 9, the PDP won nine and NC four. Congress, Peoples Democratic Front and an Independent bagged one seat each.

Priyarag Verma | IBNLive.com

Updated:December 7, 2014, 8:37 PM IST
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Terror strikes cast a shadow on 3rd phase of J&K elections, Omar faces a tough battle in PDP stronghold
Out of the 16 seats where voting will take place on December 9, the PDP won nine and NC four. Congress, Peoples Democratic Front and an Independent bagged one seat each.

Srinagar: Even as the first two phases of Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections on November 25 and December 2 passed off relatively peacefully with a large number of voters coming out to exercise their franchise, the multiple terror attacks on December 5 at four different places of the Kashmir Valley have cast a shadow on the third round of electoral battle in the state.

Uri, the place which saw the maximum casualties when six heavily armed Pakistani terrorists of Lashkar-e-Toiba tried to storm an Army camp, will vote in the third phase along with 15 other seats, a few of which are known strongholds of separatist leaders who have given an election boycott call and others are militancy-hit. Tral is another seat that saw a terror strike when terrorists hurled a grenade killing two civilians. Following the explosion Peoples Democratic Party President Mehbooba Mufti's rally was postponed.

Authorities claim security apparatus has been further tightened in the state following the attacks in Uri, Tral, Shopian and Srinagar's Soura area in which 21 people including eight Army personnel, three police men, two civilians and eight terrorists were killed.

Lieutenant General Subrata Saha, General Officer Commanding of 15 Corps (Chinar Corps), said the multiple attacks were carried out with the aim of disrupting the election process in the state. He, however, maintained that the "security gird is tight" and the security apparatus is geared up to tackle any threat.

Separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (hardline faction) is from Sopore and has given a call to boycott elections. Sopore has had a history of going with Geelani and even this time there are indications that the seat will witness very low voting. There has hardly been any campaigning in Sopore with no party putting up posters and flags in the town.

The 16 constituencies spread over three districts Budgam, Pulwama and Baramulla in Kashmir Valley are considered a Peoples Democratic Party stronghold which won nine of them in the 2008 elections. Four seats were won by the National Conference while Congress, Peoples Democratic Front and an Independent bagged one seat each.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and NC Working President Omar Abdullah, who won from Ganderbal in 2008, is contesting from two seats one of them being Beerwah in Budgam while three of his Cabinet colleagues are also in the fray in the third phase. Congress leader and Health Minister Taj Mohiuddin, who has represented Uri in 2002 and 2008, is trying his luck once again while Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather is hopeful of winning from Chrar-e-Sharief for the seventh consecutive term.

But Rather could be in for a surprise as during the 16th Lok Sabha elections his party trailed from the seat for the first time in nearly 40 years to the PDP. Another top leader of the National Conference and Agriculture Minister Ghulam Hassan Mir is contesting from Gulmarg which he has already represented thrice.

Even as the National Conference is facing a tough time in the state but Omar is confident of bagging Beerwah which has been won by the PDP in 2002 and 2008. He had taken on the Army over the firing range at Tosamaidan and refused to extend its lease much to the jubilation of the residents.

But the sitting Beerwah MLA Mohammad Shafi Wani of the PDP and Congress candidate Nazir Ahmad Khan are giving Omar a tough challenge. Khan's father Sarfaraz Khan represented Beerwah in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly from 2002 to 2008 after winning the seat as a PDP candidate.

Even though the PDP had won nine seats in the last Assembly elections, yet the party has changed candidates from three constituencies that it won in 2008. The PDP MLA from Zadibal, Imran Ansari, is contesting from Baramulla's Pattan after his father and sitting MLA Moulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari's death. The party has not repeated MLA Syed Bashiruddin from Rajpora in Pulwama. Bashiruddin is contesting as an independent and is giving a tough fight to PDP nominee Haseeb Drabu while in Baramulla the party is banking on Javed Ahmad Beigh after 2008 winner Muzaffar Hussain Beigh won the 2014 Lok Sabha election from Baramulla.

The Khansahib constituency in Budgam will see Hakim Mohammad Yasin of Peoples Democratic Front seeking a third consecutive term by wading off challenge from separatist-turned-PDP candidate Saiduddin Bhat.

The NC sitting MLAs seeking re-election are Mohammad Ashraf Ganaie (Sopore), Aga Roohullah (Budgam), Javed Ahmad Dar (Rafiabad). Those from the PDP stable include Basharat Bukhari (Sangrama), Javed Mustafa Mir (Chadoora), Mushtaq Ahmad Shah (Tral), Zahoor Ahmad Mir (Pampore) and Mohammad Khalil Bandh (Pulwama).

A total of 144 candidates are contesting the 16 seats of Uri, Rafiabad, Sopore, Sangrama, Baramulla, Gulmarg, Pattan, Chadoora, Badgam, Beerwah, Khansahib, Chrar-i-Sharief, Tral, Pampore, Pulwama and Rajpora. The total number of eligible voters is 13.69 lakh.

While the first two phases saw over 70 per cent of the voters coming out, it remains to be seen if the terror strikes will have an impact on the turnout despite claims by the authorities of foolproof security arrangement.

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