In J&K, 144 fight for 16 segments

In J&K, 144 fight for 16 segments

Polling for 16 Assembly segments in Jammu and Kashmir, including the high-profile Beerwah constituency where Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is
in the fray, is set to take place in the third of the five phased elections on Tuesday.

In the backdrop of recent militant attacks, security has been beefed up across the Valley to thwart any attempts by ultras to disrupt the polls.

Nearly 13.70 lakh voters will decide the fate of 144 candidates in this phase which holds key to power for opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as it had won nine of the 16 segments in the 2008 polls. The Congress and Peoples Democratic Front won one seat each in the last polls while one seat went to an independent candidate.

The polling in 16 Assembly constituencies spread over three districts — Budgam, Pulwama and Baramulla — will decide the fate of Omar, his three cabinet colleagues and 10 incumbent MLAs, six of them from the PDP.

In central Kashmir’s Budgam district, the constituencies going to polls include Chrar-e-Sharief, from where senior most National Conference leader and finance minister in the outgoing government Abdur Rahim Rather is contesting. Rather has represented the constituency since 1977 without losing a single election.

However, focus is on Beerwah constituency in the same district. After deciding to leave his family bastion, Ganderbal, Omar is seeking a second term in the Assembly from Beerwah. He faces a tough competition from incumbent PDP MLA Dr Shafi and Congress nominee Nazir Ahmad Khan, whose father Sarfaraz had won from Beerwah in 2002 elections and was a minister of state in Mufti Mohamamd Sayeed-led government.

Director General of Police K Rajendra said elaborate security arrangements have been made to ensure free and fair polling. More than 70 per cent voter turnout was recorded in the first two phases. Militants carried a series of attacks apparently to scare voters.

As many as 21 people, including 11 security personnel, eight militants and two civilians, were killed in these attacks while more than a dozen were injured.
Sources told Deccan Herald that security agencies have geared up the counter infiltration grid amidst reports that the ultras could plan to cause more disturbances during the elections.

“More than 400 companies of paramilitary forces have been deployed for the election duty compared to 220 for the second phase,” they said.

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