Voting began on a brisk note on Tuesday in 15 constituencies of Jammu and Kashmir going to polls in first of the five-phased state elections.
Braving cold weather, voters today lined up at polling stations much before the start of the voting.
Twelve sitting MLAs, including seven ministers, are among 123 candidates trying their luck in the 15 constituencies that are going to polls in all three regions of the state.
While six constituencies in Jammu division will vote to elect their representatives, electorate in five segments in Kashmir and four in Ladakh will decide the political fortunes of the aspirants in the polling.
The Assembly segments going to polls include Kishtwar, Inderwal, Doda, Bhaderwah, Ramban and Banihal (in Jammu division); Gurez, Bandipora, Sonawari, Kangan and Ganderbal (in Kashmir), Nobra, Leh, Kargil and Zanskar (in Ladakh).
A total of 10,502,50 voters, including 5,49,698 males and 5,00,539 females, besides 13 transgenders are eligible to exercise their right to franchise in the first phase of the polls.
Bhaderwah has the largest number of 1,04,354 voters among the 15 constituencies, while Nobra constituency in Ladakh region has the lowest number with 13,054 voters.
Nearly 1900 polling stations have been set-up by the election authorities in these 15 constituencies.
While Bandipora, Ganderbal and Bhaderwah have the highest number of candidates, 13 each, in fray, Leh has the lowest number of candidates with a direct fight between Congress and BJP.
There are four candidates in fray in Gurez, seven in Sonawari, 10 in Kangan, six each in Nobra and Banihal, four each in Kargil and Zanskar, 10 in Kishtwar, 12 in Inderwal, 11 in Doda and eight in Ramban.
Seven ministers are seeking re-election in the first phase – Nazir Ahmad Khan Gurezi (from Gurez), Mohammad Akbar Lone (Sonawari), Mian Altaf (Kangan), Sajad Kichloo (Kishtwar), Abdul Majid Wani (Doda), Nawang Rigzin Joa (Leh) and Vikar Rasool Wani (Banihal).
Besides the ministers who are all sitting MLAs, five legislators are seeking a re-election in the first phase of polls.
PDP’s Nizamudding Bhat (Bandipora), Congress candidates Ghulam Mohammad Saroori (Inderwal), Sharief Niaz (Bhaderwah), Ashok Kumar (Ramban) and National Conference’s Tsetan Namgyal (Nobra) are the sitting MLAs seeking another term.
Many star campaigners, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi campaigned for their party candidates for the first phase of polls.
While Modi addressed a rally in Kishtwar, Rajnath tried to garner support for BJP candidates in Leh and Bhaderwah constituencies and party president Amit Shah campaigned in Ramban.
Sonia addressed two rallies in Bandipora and Ramban, while Bollywood actor-turned politician Raj Babbar addressed rallies in Bandipora, Sonawari and Ganderbal constituencies.
The other star campaigners include Chief Minister Omar Abdullah for his party the National Conference (NC), PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and party president Mehbooba Mufti, Ambika Soni and Ghulam Nabi Azad for Congress.
The campaigning for the first phase remained by and large peaceful. However, there were minor clashes in Sonawari, when the PDP candidate Yasir Reshi was pelted with stones by some miscreants.
There was no militancy-related incident reported from any of the 15 constituencies going to polls.
The separatist groups like all factions of Hurriyat Conference and JKLF have called for a boycott of the polls and called for a general strike as well.