Srinagar, Dec 1: The stage is set for second phase of Assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir which 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 killing of sarpanch by militants. [Officials dispatched to polling stations in Udhampur]
"We have deployed additional 220 companies of paramilitary security personnel, besides the police for the second phase of polling tomorrow in the two districts of the Valley," Inspector General of Police Kashmir A G Mir told PTI. [J&K assembly election 2014 schedule]
Mir said based on the experience from the first phase of polling, "we have fine tuned our preparations for the second phase". [28 drop-outs, 55 crorepatis contesting in Phase 2]
He said the security grid is fully geared up to foil any attempts of militants to disrupt the democratic process.
Militants last night shot dead a National Conference sarpanch Mohammad Sultan Bhat in Shopian district. Although Shopian is not going to polls tomorrow, it shares its boundary with Kulgam district where polling will be held tomorrow.
As many as 18 Assembly segments, spread over five districts -- two in the Valley and three in Jammu region -- will go to polls tomorrow to 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.
Lone's campaign has come under attack from National Conference after the former separatist leader met the Prime Minister on November 10. Although he dismissed suggestions that the meeting had anything to do with the elections, this defence could not hold much water in view of BJP not fielding a candidate from his constituency.
Deputy Speaker of the present Assembly and PDP leader Sartaj Madni will be seeking a third consecutive term from Devsar Assembly segment.
Ittoo, is among the four ministers in the fray for Noorabad Assembly segment going to polls on Tuesday. Other ministers from her party include Law Minister Saifullah Mir (Kupwara) and Chaudhary Mohammad Ramzan (Handwara) while Ajaz Ahmad Khan (Gool Arnas) is from Congress.
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.
All the 18 seats will witness a multi-cornered contest with Noorabad constituency having the highest number of 15 candidates, followed by Reasi (14), Handwara and Kupwara (12 each).
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 established in the constituencies going to polls in second phase.