Electioneering For 6th Phase Of JK Polls Ends, Ex-CMs In Fray

15 December 2008

Srinagar: The dust and din of electioneering for the sixth round of polling, scheduled to be held on December 17 in 16 constituencies, settled on Monday with former chief ministers Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Ghulam Nabi Azad and 269 candidates, including 10 former ministers, making a last ditch effort to swing voters in their favour. More than 11.65 lakh voters, including over 5.62 lakh women, will exercise their franchise, for which election authorities have set up 1,268 polling stations. Sixteen constituencies spread over five districts of Anantnag (7), Kulgam (3), Doda, Ramban and Kishtwar (two each) are going to the booths on Wednesday. To ensure tight security, 200 additional companies of security forces and nearly 100 companies of local police are being deployed in poll-bound areas. Barring the death of a PDP activist in a clash with activists of arch rival National Conference at Dhamhal Hanjipora in Kulgam district, the campaigning was peaceful. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh too joined the campaign trail in this phase of elections in the state. He addressed a massive gathering at Khundroo in Shangus segment in south Kashmir on Sunday appealing to people to vote for his party nominees. Former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah (National Conference), Mufti Mohammad Sayeed (Peoples Democratic Party) and Ghulam Nabi Azad and Union Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz (Congress) were the star campaigners for their respective parties. Like the earlier five rounds, this too would see multi-cornered contests in all the 16 constituencies with a record number of 271 candidates in the fray. In comparison, only 124 candidates were in the fray in these constituencies in 2002 elections. Among the contestants are 11 women, including National Conference's star campaigner Sakina Itoo. Former chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed who entered the state assembly from Pahalgam constituency in a by-poll held in 2004 after the seat was vacated by his daughter and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti consequent to her election to the Lok Sabha, is contesting from Anantnag this time. Although there are 23 candidates in the fray, Sayeed's main challenge will come from his one-time close lieutenant and NC state president Mehboob Beg. Former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad also entered the state assembly for the first time through a by-poll held in 2006 from Bhaderwah constituency, which was vacated by his cousin and former minister Mohammad Sharief Naaz. This time Azad is pitted against 13 rivals. However, the main contest will be between Azad and former advocate general and NC nominee Mohammad Aslam Goni, Sheikh Mujeeb of PDP and BJP's former state unit president D K Kotwal.