Voting ends peacefully in Jammu and Kashmir and Jharkhand in the second of the five phased Assembly elections.
Voting began early this morning in 18 constituencies of Jammu and Kashmir and 20 Maoist- affected constituencies in Jharkhand amid tight security.
People have by and large so far stayed indoor due to cold weather and heavy fog engulfing the Kashmir valley.
The polls will seal the fate of 175 candidates, including deputy speaker, four ministers and 11 other sitting MLAs, amidst tight security in Kulgam and Kupwara districts following attacks on Sarpanches by militants.
As many as 18 Assembly segments, spread over five districts – two in the Valley and three in Jammu region – will decide the fate of 175 candidates which includes the lone woman minister in the National Conference-Congress coalition government Sakina Ittoo.
Of the 18 constituencies, Handwara in north Kashmir Kupwara district will be the focus of attention as separatist-turned-mainstream politician Sajad Gani Lone is making debut in Assembly elections after unsuccessfully contesting the Lok Sabha polls in 2009.
Deputy Speaker of the present Assembly and PDP leader Sartaj Madni will be seeking a third consecutive term from Devsar Assembly segment.
All but two sitting MLAs are seeking re-election in the second phase. While Chaudhary Mohammad Aslam (Congress) who won in 2008 from Surankote, passed away this year, PDP has not fielded Sardar Rafiq Khan from Mendhar in view of ill health.
Reasi will be another constituency under keen observation as sitting MLA Baldev Raj is contesting as an independent after winning on a BJP ticket in 2008.
Kulgam constituency in south Kashmir will also be in focus as the CPI (M) face in Jammu and Kashmir, Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami, is seeking fourth consecutive term.
Ramanagar in Udhampur is having the least number of candidates at six while Chenani, Gulabgarh and Karnah have seven each.
A total of over 12 lakh voters will exercise their franchise at 1,900 polling stations in second phase of j&k assembly elections.
In Jharkhand, Polling began at 7 am in all 20 constituencies. While it will end at 5 am at Jamshedpur (West) and Jamshedpur (East) seats, the exercise will end at 3 pm in the rest of the seats, Chief Electoral Officer P K Jajoria said.
An electorate of 44,31,900, including 21,72,982 women, is eligible to vote in 5,048 polling stations across seven districts to elect 223 candidates, said Jajoria.
There are 35 women among the candidates with Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, BJP and Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) nominating four women each.
Inspector-General of Police M L Meena said there were 1,424 supersensitive and 2,048 sensitive polling stations and added that polling personnel were airlifted to remote areas to be brought back by air after the polling.
The November 25 first phase election covering 13 Maoist-affected constituencies had ended peacefully, recording 62 per cent votes.
The CPI (Maoist) and the People’s Liberation Front of India are the banned extremist outfits operating in several rural areas across the seven districts – Seraikella-Kharsawan, West Singhbhum, East Singhbhum, Khunti, Simdega, Ranchi and Gumla where the 20 Assembly segments are situated.
The BJP is contesting in 18 seats in this phase, leaving two – Tamar and Jugsalai – for its pre-poll alliance partner, the AJSU Party.
The Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVM-Prajatantrik) and Trinamool Congress are contesting in a pre-poll alliance, with the JVM-P fielding candidates in 18 seats, conceding two seats to the TMC.
Ruling allies JMM and Congress, who parted ways just before the Assembly election, are contesting against each other in all 20 constituencies.
In this phase, RJD and JD(U) are not in the fray.
Prominent among the candidates are incumbent Agriculture minister Banna Gupta (Jamshedpur -West), HRD minister Geetashree Oraon (Sisai) and Industry minister Champai Soren (Seraikella).
Former chief ministers Arjun Munda and Madhu Koda are the other figures trying their luck.
Former IAS officer J B Tubid, who took voluntary retirement to join the BJP, is contesting from Chaibasa, while former MLA Surya Singh Besra is fighting from the Potka seat.
Counting of votes will be on 23 rd December.