Beerwah (Jammu and Kashmir), Dec 5: This central Kashmir assembly constituency shot into the headlines after Chief Minister Omar Abdullah announced he would contest the assembly elections from here after dumping his family's political bastion of north Kashmir's Ganderbal.
For most locals, the decision came as a surprise and Abdullah tried to address this by asserting that he and his party have strong political links with Beerwah.
Abdullah has been extensively campaigning here. Given the large gatherings he has been attracting, not many would dispute the wisdom of his decision to join the electoral fray from here.
In the 2008 elections, Muhammad Shafi Wani of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had defeated Abdul Majid Mattu of the National Conference (NC) by a thin margin of 164 votes.
Abdullah aims to win by a larger majority.
In the past, PDP has won from here in 2002 while the NC has won this seat thrice in 1996, 1987 and 1977. The Congress won from here in 1972 and 1967.
Abdullah is also contesting from the Sonwar constituency in Srinagar district. Asked the reason for this, Abdullah said he would vacate one of the two seats after winning both, for his father Farooq Abdullah in the future.
"I don't want my father to end his political career on a losing note since he lost the Lok Sabha elections this year. After I win both Beerwah and Sonwar, I will vacate one for Papa to return to politics with a victory," he had told reporters.
There are four other candidates for the seat from the Congress, the BJP, People's Conference and an independent, but the main contest in between Abdullah and Wani.
Interestingly, before the model code of conduct (MCC) came into force with the announcement of the assembly elections, Abdullah held his last official function at Beerwah's Tosa Maidan.
The Indian Army's field firing range at Tosa Maidan had become a bone of contention between the locals and the force.
Dozens of people have been injured, some fatally, during the last many years because of unexploded shells left behind by the army after firing drills.
Not only did Abdullah get the firing range cleared of unexploded shells but he also announced the place would no longer be used as a firing range.
"Tosa Maidan will come up in a big way in the near future as a tourist destination," he said during his last official function.
Despite the hype given to Abdullah's entry, Wani says he has no doubt about his victory.
"I have received Omar after he ran away from Ganderbal. Rest assured he will return defeated from here," Wani told reporters.
Political posturing and rhetoric apart, Abdullah's joining the electoral fray has suddenly made Beerwah a high profile constituency as all eyes remain focussed on the seat.
Close to 93,000 voters, including 48,778 males and 44068 females are eligible to exercise their franchise at 120 polling stations in the constituency on Dec 9 in the third phase of the five-phased assembly elections.