Chiefs of the two main rival regional political parties the ruling National Conference (NC)'s Dr Farooq Abdullah and opposition PDP's Mehbooba Mufti have lined up for the electoral battle in Kashmir Valley. Also trying their luck at the polls will be state BJP chief Jugal Kishore Sharma and J-K National Panthers' Party head Prof Bhim Singh.
Union Minister Abdullah is a two-time former Chief Minister of the state (1987 and 1996) who has entered the contest for the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat, which is an NC bastion. He faces former PDP minister Tariq Karra, a champion of the cause of stronger ties between the Indian and Pakistan- occupied sides of Kashmir.
Karra has been an MLA from Batmaloo Assembly constituency in Srinagar city and is a mascot for the party in urbanised central Kashmir. He was an MLC in 2003. Abdullah would also have to contend against Aam Aadmi Party debutant and RTI activist Raja Muzaffar Bhat for this seat.
Abdullah's Cabinet colleague and Congress stalwart Ghulam Nabi Azad who, too, is a former Chief Minister of J-K (between 2006 and 2008), is a candidate for the Udhampur Lok Sabha seat. Azad, who was born in Doda district, is contesting his first Lok Sabha polls in his home state.
He has twice taken part in Assembly elections in the state and while he forfeited his security deposit from Inderwal constituency on his first attempt, his second try saw him win from his native Bhaderwah constituency.
He is facing the BJP candidate, diabetologist Dr Jatinder Singh, in the fight for the Udhampur seat of which Kishtwar district is a part. A polarisation is likely in Kishtwar after the area was last August shaken by communal riots.