Campaign ends for first phase of polls in J&K, Jharkhand
Srinagar/Ranchi: Campaigning for the first phase of polling on Tuesday for 15 assembly seats in Jammu and Kashmir and 13 Maoist-hit constituencies in Jharkhand ended today, with BJP hoping to continue its winning streak in the multi-cornered contests riding on the ‘Modi wave'.
123 candidates are in the fray in the first leg of the five-stage election in Jammu and Kashmir, where Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is leading the ruling National Conference against main opposition PDP, BJP and Congress, with which the NC had snapped ties ahead of polls.
The fate of 199 candidates will be decided in this phase in Jharkhand which has an 81-member Assembly with ruling JMM, Congress-RJD combine, BJP-AJSU, JVM-P, RJD, JD(U), CPI, CPI(M), CPI(ML-Liberation) and other regional parties in the contest.
The 15 J-K assembly segments going to polls on November 25 are spread across seven districts of Bandipora and Ganderbal in Kashmir Valley, Kargil and Leh of Ladakh region and Kishtwar, Doda and Ramban of Jammu region. While eight seats were held by National Conference, PDP had one and the Congress had six.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh were among the star campaigners for BJP in Jammu and Kashmir where the first phase of elections has been by and large peaceful. Modi attacked successive government in the state over corruption, harped on the development plank and raised the issue of rehabilitation after the recent floods which had ravaged the state.
Sonia Gandhi led the campaign for Congress, accusing the BJP of playing politics over providing relief to flood victims and failing to fulfil promises made in Lok Sabha elections. Omar has voiced confidence of retaining power, noting that militancy is “at the lowest” in last six years and his government has taken various pro-development initiatives in its tenure.
The saffron party avoided controversial issues like abrogation of Article 360 and is hoping to meet “Mission 44 plus' in the 87-member Assembly to form government for the first time in Jammu and Kashmir, as it recently did in Haryana and Maharashtra.
Omar accused BJP its keeping its “feet in two boats” on the issue and warned that it will end up “sinking”. He also spoke about his efforts to get the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) revoked. Main opposition Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti said people of the state will reject BJP's “divisive agenda” and her party will get full majority.
Nearly 1900 polling stations have been set-up by the election authorities in these 15 constituencies. A total of 10,502,50 voters including 5,49,698 males and 5,00,539 females, besides 13 transgenders are eligible to exercise their right to franchise in the first phase of the polls.
Among the prominent candidates are six ministers - Nazir Ahmad Khan Gurezi (from Gurez), Mohammad Akbar Lone(Sonawari), Mian Altaf (Kangan), Sajad Kichloo (Kishtwar), Abdul Majid Wani (Doda)and Vikar Rasool Wani (Banihal). Modi, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi were among the leaders who canvassed in Palamau, Gumla and Latehar districts of Jharkhand with BJP and Congress trading charges on the issue of lack of development in the state.
Modi had also attacked ruling JMM over dynastic rule in Jharkhand referring to JMM supremo Shibu Soren and his Chief Minister son Hemant Soren, while asking people to end “Pariwarwad” and give BJP an opportunity. The two states are going to polls together in five phases. Polling will be held on December 2 for phase 2, December 9 for phase 3, December 14 for phase 4 and December 20 for phase 5.
Counting of votes will be held on December 23.