J&K Polls: Campaigning concludes for 1st phase, stakes high for National Conference
Srinagar/Jammu: The campaign heat subsided today in 11 seats in Kashmir and Chenab valleys and four in Ladakh for the Tuesday polls in the first phase of election in Jammu and Kashmir, with stakes high for National Conference in the multi-cornered contest.
Six ministers are among 123 candidates in the fray for 15 Assembly segments where the less than a month-long peaceful campaigning saw over 300 rallies and road shows but none of the major political parties came out with their manifesto barring Congress which released it this evening.
Ruling National Conference led by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, BJP, Congress and main opposition PDP had their top leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and AICC Chief Sonia Gandhi campaigning for their parties. BJP President Amit Shah, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, and PDP patron Mufti Sayeed were among the star campaigners.
Out of these 15, five assembly segments are in Kashmir Valley - Gurez, Bandipora and Sonawari (in Bandipora district) and Kangan and Ganderbal (in Ganderbal), four in Ladakh region - Nobra and Leh (in Leh), Kargil and Zanskar (in Kargil) and six in Jammu division - Kishtwar and Inderwal (in Kishtwar), Doda and Bhaderwah (in Doda) and Ramban and Banihal (in Ramban).
In the 2008 polls, NC had bagged four out of five seats in Kashmir, one in Chenab Valley and two in Kargil district while Congress, with which it had an alliance, got five out 6 seats in Chenab Valley, one in Leh. One seat in Kashmir went to PDP. One was won by NC-backed independent. “The poll campaigning ended for the first phase of elections at 4 PM today. It was peaceful”, J&K Election department officer told PTI.
Issues of development and greater autonomy, Article 370, region discrimination and self rule dominated the campaign. 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.
BJP, which is banking on Modi factor, avoided controversial issues like abrogation of Article 360 and harped on the development plank.
Modi attacked successive government in the state over corruption, promised to bring development 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. The saffron party 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