Campaigning for 4th phase ends in J&K

Poll exercise: Mainstream parties set foot in separatists' enclaves

Campaigning for 4th phase ends in J&K

Curtains came down on high-profile campaigning for 18 Assembly segments of Jammu and Kashmir on Friday evening as the state is set to witness crucial fourth phase of the five-phased election on December 14.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and his daughter Mehbooba Mufti, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad and BJP star campaigners, including Union Minister Mukhtaar Abbas Naqvi, Shahnawaz Hussain, film stars Hema Malini and Vinod Khanna and Cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu, campaigned for party candidates in the fourth phase.

Nearly 14.73 lakh voters, including 7.67 lakh men and 7.06 lakh women, will decide the fate of 182 candidates, including high profile nominees like Omar Abdullah (Sonawar in Srinagar), Mufti Sayeed (Anantnag) besides sitting ministers, the Speaker, former ministers, legislators and other influential candidates on December 14.

Of the 18 Assembly segments in the fourth phase, 16 are in Kashmir valley and two in Samba district of Jammu region. With this, polling for all 46 seats of the Valley will be completed. The remaining 20 are in Jammu region and will go to polls in the fifth and final phase on December 20. Stakes are high for both the National Conference (NC) and PDP in the fourth phase, which hold nine and six seats, respectively, of the total 18 segments.

Polling has already been completed in 49 Assembly seats, including 15 in Jammu region, all four in Ladakh region and 30 in the Kashmir Valley in the first three phases on November 25, December 2 and December 9, respectively. The fourth phase is also crucial as polling in all eight constituencies in Srinagar is set to be held on Sunday. Voters in Srinagar had predominantly sided with election boycott call of separatists in the past elections. However, if the response to political campaigning in the last two weeks in Srinagar is an indication, the voter turnout may increase this time. In the last Assembly election in 2008, the voter turnout in Srinagar was a mere 20 per cent.

But in a marked shift from the none-too-distant past, this time, one can see the banners and buntings of mainstream political parties adorning the separatist enclaves in Srinagar’s old city areas. Banners of NC, Congress, PDP, BJP and independent candidates dot most parts of the old city, including volatile Khanyar, Nowhatta, Hawal, Rainawari, Eidgah, Hazratbal and Fateh Kadal areas.

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