Campaign ends for second phase of J&K polls; 18 seats to vote

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Jammu, Nov 30: After a record turnout in the first phase, the high-voltage campaigning for the second leg of Assembly elections on December 2 in nine seats in Jammu and as many in Kashmir ended on Sunday, with several high-profile candidates including former separatist Sajad Lone and four state ministers trying their luck at the hustings.

The campaign fever had heightened in this leg after 71.28 per cent voting in 15 seats during the first phase. However, security has been tightened in the wake of three militant attacks during the period, including in Arnia where 10 people were killed.

File photo

Out of the 18 seats which will go to polls, ruling National Conference had six seats, Congress three, PDP four, JKNPP two, BJP one, CPI(M) one and Independent one.

A total of 15.35 lakh people are eligible to vote in the 18 constituencies where 175 candidates are in the fray. The campaigning for the second phase saw many political bigwigs addressing rallies including Prime Minister Narendra Modi who held two rallies in Udhmapur and Poonch and Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi who addressed a rally in Poonch.

Senior BJP leader and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh held a rally in Kashmir. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, PDP patron Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad also held several rallies.

While BJP led by Modi raised the issue of corruption, dynastic politics and development, it remained silent on the controversial issues of abrogation of Article 370. The party released a vision document in which it tried to woo Kashmiri Pandits by promising to reserve three seats for the community displaced from the Valley due to militancy.

Ruling National Conference said it would oppose any attempt to "tamper" with Article 370 of the Constitution, which grants special status to the state, and press for the reversal of "erosion" of the constitutional provision over the years.

Congress promised equitable development of the three regions of the state and said it will constitute two fully empowered regional councils. It said separate development councils operating under the umbrella of regional councils, one for Chenab Valley and another for Peer Panchal Valley, will be set up. The party also promised review of cases of detainees not involved in grave offences.

PDP, meanwhile, promised to pursue 'Self Rule' as framework for resolution of Kashmir, besides effective governance to fight corruption and rebuild the state economy. It also talked about economic and social integration of the region around Jammu and Kashmir by setting up Regional Free Trade Area and common economic market. Except Congress none of the major parties had released manifesto before the first phase.

Among the candidates in the fray are four ministers of the state: Minister for Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution Choudhary Mohammed Ramzan (Handwara), Social Welfare Minister Sakina Itoo (Noorabad), Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mir Saifullah (Kupwara) and Minister of State for Revenue Aijaz Khan (Gool Arnas). Sajad Lone is also in the fray from the Handwara Assembly constituency.

Omar on Saturday attacked Lone, accusing him of ganging up with BJP. Lone, who joined mainstream politics by contesting 2009 Lok Sabha polls, is making his debut in the Assembly polls. BJP has not fielded candidate in Handwara.

Though the campaigning for the second leg passed off peaceful, security arrangements have been tightened following a terrorist attack in Arnia on November 28 in which 10 people lost their lives and a grenade attack in Srinagar yesterday in which eight people were injured.

on Saturday, militants had also triggered a blast targeting an army vehicle near LoC in Poonch, but the troops escaped unhurt.


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