Saturday, December 20, 2014 | UPDATED 12:10 IST
Voting begins on brisk noteThis file photo shows a security jawan standing guard as voters wait in queues to cast their votes at a polling station in Budgam. PTI
J&K Assembly polls

Voting begins on brisk note

20 Dec 2014 | 12:03 PM

JAMMU: Amid tight security, polling today began on a brisk note for the fifth and final round of elections in Jammu and Kashmir in which 213 candidates, including Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand and four other ministers, are trying their luck in 20 seats.

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Jammu, December 20

Amid tight security, polling today began on a brisk note for the fifth and final round of elections in Jammu and Kashmir in which 213 candidates, including Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand and four other ministers, are trying their luck in 20 seats.

After a record turnout of voters in the previous four phases, particularly in the Kashmir Valley, there is an expectation of high voter turnout in the seats spread across Jammu, Kathua and Rajouri districts of Jammu region.

As many as 213 candidates, including the Deputy Chief Minister, ministers Sham Lal Sharma, Raman Bhalla, Manohar Lal Sharma, Ajay Sadhotra, former MP and Ministers Lal Singh and Talib Hussain (both BJP) are in the fray.

As many as 18,28,904 eligible voters, comprising 9,59,011 men and 8,69,891 women, are eligible to exercise their franchise at 2,366 polling stations set up across the three border districts.

BJP has high stakes in this phase as it had got 10 seats in 2008 Assembly elections followed by Congress with 5 seats, NC 2, PDP 1 and two seats going to Independents.

“All the measures and arrangements have been put in place for tomorrow’s polls”, Divisional Commissioner, Jammu Division, Shant Manu told PTI.

The Divisional Commissioner said that 400 security companies (40,000 security men) have been deployed for today’s polling apart from regular deployment of police forces.

Security arrangements along the Indo-Pak border have  been strengthened in the three border districts of Jammu region with troops put on alert for the polls.

“Security grid along the Indo-Pak border has been put on alert. Multi-tier security has been put in place”, the Divisional Commissioner said.

The saffron party fired up its campaigning with all top guns led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Smriti Irani, Uma Bharti, J P Nadda, Jitendra Singh and star campaigners Vinod Khanna, Hema Malini, and Navjot Singh Sidhu wooing voters.

Modi addressed four rallies in Rajouri, Jammu, Billawar and Kathua Assembly segments and appealed to the people to give BJP a majority to develop the state and oust “dynastic” rule of NC, PDP and Congress.

Senior leaders of all parties campaigned for their candidates. Among the prominent campaigners were Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, his predecessors Congress’s Ghulam Nabi Azad and PDP’s Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Mehbooba Mufti.

Deputy Chief Minister and Congress candidate Tara Chand, who won the Chhamb seat in Jammu in 1996, 2002 and 2008 is fighting to retain the seat this time again.

Besides, Congress candidate from Akhnoor and Minister Sham Lal Sharma is looking at scoring a hat-trick.

Another Congress Minister Raman Bhalla is also looking at repeating his victory of 2002 and 2008 in Gandhi Nagar seat.

Congress Minister Manohar Lal Sharma is engaged in a direct fight with BJP at Billawar in Kathua district.

While PDP has fielded six sitting MLAs including Wani, it has nominated fresh faces in the three constituencies.

Sitting minister of National Conference Ajay Sadhotra will take on BJP in Marh Assembly segment.

Besides, two-time MP and former minister Lal Singh, who switched sides from Congress to BJP, is contesting from Basholi seat. Similarly, former NC MP Talib Hussain is trying his luck on a BJP ticket from Rajouri segment.

NC candidate for Nagrota Devender Singh Rana, who is close to Omar Abdullah, will face his maiden contest.

The election official said in Bani Assembly constituency 11 candidates are in the fray, in Basohli 12, Kathua 15, Billawar 8, Hiranagar 8, Nagrota 11, Gandhi Nagar 11, Jammu East 9, Jammu West 15, Bishnah 10, R S Pura 11, Suchetgarh 12, Marh 9, Raipur Domana 11, Akhnoor 8, Chhamb 10, Nowshera 11, Darhal 11, Rajouri 13, Kalakote 7.

While BJP led by Modi raised the issue of corruption, dynastic politics and development, it remained silent on the controversial issues of abrogation of Article 370. The party released a vision document but did not release any manifesto.

Ruling National Conference, which talked about development and hit out at BJP over divisive politics, said it would oppose any attempt to “tamper” with Article 370.

Congress promised equitable development for the three regions of the state. — PTI

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