Final stages of campaign in Kupwara

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Kupwara, Nov 26: As only 3 days are now left for campaigning in five assembly segments of this frontier district, where polling will be held on Nov 30 in the third phase, senior leaders of different political parties and independent candidates are making last minute effort to woo voters in their favour.

Interestingly, despite high voter turn-out during the first two phases, big rallies are still missing in the main towns where candidates prefer door-to-door canvassing instead of going for public meetings.

The constituencies going to polls include Karnah, Kupwara, Lolab, Handwara and Langate in district Kupwara, once a hub of militants.

However, almost all political parties organised poll rallies and big meetings in the far-flung and remote areas, making promises to work for their betterment if voted to Legislative Assembly.

Although the campaigning so far was by and large peaceful without any report of major incident taking place, the contesting candidates still fear trouble, said a local resident at main Kupwara town.

No doubt Kupwara was once a hub of militants as they (militants) were using routes to infiltrate into this side from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK), the residents said adding Kupwara district is surrounded by POK borders from three sides.

Abdul Gaffar, a shopkeeper, said now the district is peaceful though there were some incidents of infiltration from PoK this year.

However, security forces foiled these attempts, he said adding some militants managed to sneak in.

He admitted that during the Amarnath land row, people from this and other towns of the district joined demonstrations. Majority also attended different marchs called by the Coordination Committee (CC) during August, he said.

Now things are normal, he said adding there would hardly be any impact of poll boycott call, except in some areas of the town.

National Conference (NC) president Omar Abdullah, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti, Congress president and Union Minister Saifuddin Soz and former Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and Awami National Conference (ANC) senior vice president Zaffar Shah were among the star campaigners who addressed roadside meeting and public meetings and rallies in the district.

The NC, PDP and ANC in an attempt to woo the voters said that Kashmir is an unresolved issue and elections would not help to address it, the Congress and other national parties urged people to vote for them for the development of all the regions of the state. The NC president Omar Abdullah in one of his election meeting promised to release all the separatist leaders within a week if voted to power in the state.

He also said his party will make all out efforts to facilitate the safe return of Kashmiri youths in POK after taking up the issue with New Delhi.

Mr Omar said people will take part in elections in large number as they (people) have now realised that assembly elections and Kashmir issue are two different things.

Leaders of different political parties and contesting candidate not ready to take any risk so far are conducting door-to-door campaigning in the towns, appealing people to vote for them.

There are 71 candidate, mostly independents in the fray from Karnah, Kupwara, Lolab, Handwara and Langate assembly segments in district.

As many as 448--hyper sensitive and sensitive-- polling booth for an electorate of 3,41,946 voters, including 1,63,389 women would be set up in these constituencies.

The authorities have appointed 11 Zonal and 31 Sectoral Magistrates to ensure free, fair and transparent polling in these assembly segments.

The District Election Officer (DEO), Kupwara, said that adequate transport arrangements have been made for the poll personnel being deployed in far flung and remote areas of Machil, Karnah and Keran.

He said poll staff, who already been given training will report to his office tomorrow at 1030 hrs.

The Kupwara assembly segment will witness multi-corner contest as besides Shabnam Lone, there are 19 candidates seeking mandate.

However, Shabnam Lone, daughter of late Hurriyat Leader Abdul Gani Lone, is besides facing 18 candidates, her two brother--Bilal Gani Lone and Sajjad Gani Lone-- who are opposing election process in the state.

If locals are to be believed the National Conference (NC) candidate Mir Saifullah has better chance to make it hattrick from the segment. However, others say he will have to put in more efforts this time to beat his rivals, including Shabnam lone a supreme court lawyer, PDP's Fayaz Ahmad and Mir Choudhary Salam-u-Din of Congress.

Mir Saifullah represented the seat in 1996 and again in 2002 for NC.

Interestingly, almost all national and state political parties, including Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), Panther Party, Janta Party, Lok Janshakti Party, National United Front, Awami National Conference, RJD and Democratic party have also put up their candidates. The Karnah constituency border with POK, which remain cut off during winter due to snowfall, will also witness multi-corner contest.

Kafeel-ul-Rehman is of NC seeking re-election to score a hattrick from the seat he had won in 1996 and 2002. However, in 1987 the seat was won also by a NC candidate Sharief uddin Shariq.

The other candidates in the fray include Raja Manzoor Ahmed (PDP), Syed Yasir Shah (congress), Javaid Ahmad (BSP), Ms Syeeda Begum (BSP) and Qaiser Jamsheed Lone (NC), who represented the Lolab assembly segment in 2002 following the death of his father Mushtaq Ahmad Lone in a militant attack during electioneering. Mushtaq had represented the seat in 1996.

He is pitted among others against Abdul Haq Khan (PDP), Abdul Rahim Wani (PDF), Farooq Ahmad Mir (congress) and Muneer Ahmad Khan (Panthers Party).

Similarly, the contestants from Handwara constituency are Muhammad Ramzan (NC), who lost in 2002 against an independent candidate , Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din Mir (PDP), Sofi Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din (Independent) seeking re-eleaction and Ms Shafiqa Begum (Panthers Party).

Sharief-ud-Din Sharik (NC) is seeking re-election from Langate.

He is pitted among others against Muhammad Sultan Panditpuri (PDP), Muhammad Amin Khan (Congress), Bashir Ahmad Kar (PDF) and Javaid Ahmad Najar (Panthers Party).


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