J-K, J'khand assembly polls third round voting today

  • Peerzada Ashiq and Sanjoy Dey, Hindustan Times, Srinagar/Ranchi
  • Updated: Dec 09, 2014 11:59 IST

More than 6 million people across 17 constituencies in Jharkhand and 16 assembly segments in Jammu and Kashmir will vote Tuesday in the third round of the ongoing state elections.

In J-K, security forces are on high alert in major districts such as Pulwama, Baramulla and Budgam in the wake of last week's terrorist strikes that left 22 dead, including 11 security men.

All eyes will be on Uri and Tral constituencies, which were hit by the militant violence. The first two phases of elections in the state saw a record turnout of over 70%, with voters ignoring boycott calls by separatists and militant outfits.

The fate of top leaders, including chief minister Omar Abdullah, will be decided in this phase of polling.

The spotlight is on the National Conference (NC) leader's newly chosen constituency, Beerwah, where he contests against opposition Peoples Democratic Party's (PDP) sitting legislator, Muhammad Shafi Wani.

Shia votes, consolidated by the ruling NC over a period of time, are a key to victory in the constituency.

Three of Abdullah's cabinet colleagues -- the NC's Abdul Rahim Rather, Congress' Taj Mohiuddin and the Democratic Party Nationalist's Ghulam Hassan Mir -- face an anti-incumbency test from Charar-e-Sharief, Uri and Tangmarg constituencies.

Buoyed by their stunning successes in recent polls, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is also trying to expand its presence in the militancy-torn state and hopes to win over independents and smaller groups to cobble together a government.

However, the party may not succeed because of the absence of a prominent face.

For the PDP, the challenge is to retain four seats in its stronghold, Pulwama, where it has fielded a new entrant, former banker Haseeb Drabu.

Analysts have said the NC faces a tough time due to an anti-incumbency wave, especially after the September floods.

The focus will also be on Sopore, hometown of hardline Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Geelani, for poll percentage. Only 19% cast their votes in the 2008 election.

In Jharkhand, too, the third phase will decide the fate of many big political leaders, including a former chief minister and three cabinet ministers.

The mineral-rich state saw record turnouts in the first two phases, when 63.35% and 68.01% cast their ballot, even in areas hit by Maoist violence.

"The voter turnout in the first two phases indicates the turnout will be greater even in the third phase," said Jharkhand chief electoral officer PK Jajoria.

A total of 289 candidates are vying for a spot in the 81-member assembly, including former chief minister Babulal Marandi of the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha-Prajatantrik and former deputy chief minister Sudesh Mahto of the All Jharkhand Students' Union (AJSU) Party.

The Congress is hoping for big gains but will face a tough challenge from the Narendra Modi-led BJP as it seeks to expand its national footprint.

The party is confident of bagging at least 12 seats in the state that has seen nine CMs and has been under President's Rule three times in the 14 years since it came into existence.

The Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal and the ruling Jharkhand Mukti Morcha will face each other in all 17 constituencies after they ended their 16-month alliance in October.

The Election Commission has deployed around 41,000 security personnel as Maoists hold sway in at least eight constituencies and declared 1,957 of 5,865 polling stations hyper sensitive.


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