Srinagar, Dec 8: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and three of his cabinet colleagues are among 144 candidates whose fate will be decided on Tuesday in the third phase of polling in 16 seats spread across Budgam, Pulwama and Baramulla districts.
Security arrangements in all the three districts have been strengthened in the wake of Friday's violence, where 21 persons including 11 security personnel and eight militants were killed in four incidents in the Valley. All eyes will be on Uri and Tral constituencies, which were hit by militant violence ahead of the polls.
The first two phases of elections in the state saw a record turnout of over 70 per cent, with voters ignoring boycott calls by separatists and militant outfits. The stakes are high for Peoples Democratic Party as it held nine of the sixteen Assembly constituencies which have an electorate of 13.69 lakh electors, including 6.51 lakh women.
A total of 144 candidates are in the fray including the Chief Minister, three of his cabinet colleagues and 10 other sitting MLAs. 1,781 polling stations have been set up in the area.
Omar, who chose to contest from Beerwah in Budgam instead of his family bastion of Ganderbal, hopes that some of the recent steps taken by his government for the area will help him sail through the electoral tide from a constituency which was won by PDP candidates in the last two elections.
A total of 144 candidates are in the fray including CM Omar Abdullah
Among many decisions, the Omar government did not extend the lease to the Army for using Tosamaidan meadows, falling in the Beerwah constituency, as a firing practice range following widespread opposition from the locals. He also ensured that the Army cleared the area of the littered shells, which had claimed more than 60 lives in the past two decades.
NC working president Omar, who is also contesting from the Sonawar Assembly seat, was given a rousing welcome when he filed his nomination papers from this constituency last month.
Omar, who is seeking a second term in the Assembly, faces a stiff challenge from sitting PDP MLA Mohammad Shafi Wani and Congress nominee Nazir Ahmad Khan, whose father Sarfaraz Khan had won from Beerwah in 2002 elections as a PDP candidate. PDP represents nine of the 16 seats while the ruling NC holds only four.
Congress and Peoples Democratic Front won one seat each in the last polls while one seat went to Independent. While PDP has re-nominated six sitting MLAs including Wani, it has fielded fresh faces in three other seats won by it in the 2008 Assembly elections.