Elections to four Rajya Sabha seats in Jammu and Kashmir will be held on Saturday with seven candidates in the fray including Congress' Ghulam Nabi Azad, current Leader of Opposition in the Upper House of Parliament, who faces a tough test.
Besides Azad, the other contestants are PDP's Mir Mohammad Fayaz and Nazir Ahmad Laway; BJP's Shamsher Singh and Chander Mohan Sharma; and Sajjad Ahmad Kichloo and Nasir Aslam Wani of NC.
Both BJP-PDP and NC-Congress are fighting the elections under seat sharing arrangements.
PDP, with 28 seats, is the single-largest party in the state Assembly, which is currently in suspended animation, while BJP has 25 seats in the 87-member house.
Given the party position in the Assembly, the BJP-PDP combine is likely to win three seats and Azad, who has support of 28 members including 12 of Congress, 15 of NC and CPI-M member M Y Tarigami, can win another term if two more members support him. Seven seats are shared by smaller parties and Independents.
Azad is believed to have met Independent members -- former minister Hakeem Mohammad Yaseen and Engineer Rashid Ahmed in Srinagar on Tuesday but the duo had not opened their cards.
"The elections to elect four members to the Council of States (Rajya Sabha) by the members of Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly will be held on February 7 at J&K Legislative Assembly Secretariat lobby in Jammu from 9 am to 4 pm," according to the notification issued by Returning Officer M Ramzan.
Azad had lost the Lok Sabha elections against Union minister Jitendra Singh from Udhampiur Lok Sabha seat. "The importance of Yaseen and Rashid has increased for the victory of joint candidates of BJP-PDP and Congress-NC," a senior Congress leader said and claimed Azad will win.
Terming the alliance between BJP and PDP as "opportunist", CPI(M) said it has decided to vote against the parties.
"I am not with the government. I am always for secular "I am not with the government. I am always for secular ethos of the country. I am not going to vote for PDP-BJP alliance," CPI(M) State Secretary and MLA-elect Tarigami told PTI. Hakeem Yasin, another Independent elected from Khansahib Assembly segment in Budgam district, said, "We (including Engineer Rashid Ahmed) are in the process of finalisation." Independent MLA Pawan Gupta said he was yet to take a decision.
"I have not yet decided. It will be known tomorrow (Sunday)," he said.
Pawan, who had rebelled against BJP, won the assembly election from Udhampur constituency against the party's official candidate Pawan Khajuria.
Independent candidate from Zanaskar Assembly segment Bakir Hussain Rizvi has decided to vote for PDP.
"I have decided to vote for the PDP," Rizvi said. Led by National General Secretary Ram Madav, BJP is working overtime to ensure the victory of their two candidates apart from the two PDP nominees it is backing. Madav held two meetings with party members and leaders since Friday.
Talking to reporters here, he said a strategy was in place and PDP-BJP combine would win all the four seats. Earlier, PDP Spokesman Nayeem Akhtar said, "There is a limited purpose (in fighting polls in coordination). Our purpose is that we should win two seats each. So we have done seat sharing arrangements (with BJP)."
When asked that they had fought the Assembly elections against each other only recently, he said that "There was fight between personalities from time to time and even in families, but once it comes to principles, two parties have same basic principles."
NC Provincial President Devender Singh Rana said as BJP and PDP are fighting the Rajya Sabha elections in coalition, "so we have also jointly fielded three candidates (with Congress) to give them a tough contest".