Srinagar, Dec 2: Voting began this morning in 18 constituencies of Jammu and Kashmir going to polls in second of the five-phased state elections.
People have by and large so far stayed indoor due to cold weather and heavy fog engulfing the Kashmir valley. The polls will seal the fate of 175 candidates, including deputy speaker, four ministers and 11 other sitting MLAs, amidst tight security in Kulgam and Kupwara districts following attacks on sarpanches by militants.
As many as 18 Assembly segments, spread over five districts - two in the Valley and three in Jammu region - will decide the fate of 175 candidates which includes the lone woman minister in the National Conference-Congress coalition government Sakina Ittoo.
Of the 18 constituencies, Handwara in north Kashmir Kupwara district will be the focus of attention as separatist-turned-mainstream politician Sajad Gani Lone is making debut in Assembly elections after unsuccessfully contesting the Lok Sabha polls in 2009.
Handwara in north Kashmir Kupwara district will be the focus of attention
Deputy Speaker of the present Assembly and PDP leader Sartaj Madni will be seeking a third consecutive term from Devsar Assembly segment. All but two sitting MLAs are seeking re-election in the second phase.
While Chaudhary Mohammad Aslam (Congress) who won in 2008 from Surankote, passed away this year, PDP has not fielded Sardar Rafiq Khan from Mendhar in view of ill health. Reasi will be another constituency under keen observation as sitting MLA Baldev Raj is contesting as an independent after winning on a BJP ticket in 2008.
Kulgam constituency in south Kashmir will also be in focus as the CPI(M) face in Jammu and Kashmir, Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami, is seeking fourth consecutive term.
Ramanagar in Udhampur is having the least number of candidates at six while Chenani, Gulabgarh and Karnah have seven each. A total of over 12 lakh voters will exercise their franchise at 1,900 polling stations in second phase.