Stage is set for second phase of elections in 18 seats in Jammu and Kashmir and 20 spread across seven Maoist-hit tribal districts of Jharkhand on Tuesday which will seal the fate of several high-profile candidates including two former chief ministers, seven state ministers and a former separatist.
Security has been stepped up to foil any attempts by militants to disrupt the democratic process in Jammu and Kashmir, which has witnessed the killing of a sarpanch in Shopian district on Sunday night.
As many as 18 Assembly segments, spread over five districts — two in the Valley and three in Jammu region — will go to polls on Tuesday to decide the fate of 175 candidates which includes the lone woman minister in the National Conference-Congress coalition government Sakina Ittoo.
The campaign fever had heightened in Jammu and Kashmir after a record over 71 per cent voting in 15 seats during the first phase on November 25.
In Jharkhand, former chief ministers Arjun Munda and Madhu Koda and three ministers are among 223 candidates, including 35 women, contesting from 20 seats– 16 of them reserved for tribals. Jharkhand has an 81-member Assembly.
Of the 18 constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir, Handwara in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district will be in focus as separatist-turned-mainstream politician Sajad Gani Lone is making debut in Assembly polls 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.
Ittoo, is among the four ministers in the fray for Noorabad Assembly segment. Other ministers from her party include Law Minister Saifullah Mir (Kupwara) and Chaudhary Mohammad Ramzan (Handwara) while Ajaz Ahmad Khan (Gool Arnas) is from Congress.
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.
All the 18 seats will witness a multi-cornered contest with Noorabad having the highest number of 15 candidates, followed by Reasi (14), Handwara and Kupwara (12 each).
A total of over 12 lakh voters are expected to exercise their franchise at 1,900 polling stations.
“Security has been beefed up with additional 220 companies of paramilitary security personnel, besides police for second phase of polling in two districts of the Valley,” Inspector General of Police Kashmir A G Mir told.
The seven districts going to polls in Jharkhand are Seraikella-Kharsawan, West Singhbhum, East Singhbhum, Khunti, Simdega, Ranchi and Gumla.
In the 20 seats which are going to polls in the second phase, BJP had eight MLAs, JMM five, Congress two and rest were held by Independents and other parties in the last polls.
While a maximum 15 candidates are in the fray for Jamshedpur (West) constituency, minimum eight nominees are contesting from Kharswan, Majhgaon, Torpa and Jagannathpur constituencies each.
The BJP is contesting 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. The JMM and Congress are contesting against each other in all the 20 constituencies.
Altogether 44,31,900 voters are eligible to exercise their franchise in 5,048 polling stations.
Leader of Opposition in the Assembly and former chief minister Arjun Munda is contesting for the fifth time from the Kharsawan seat as a BJP candidate.
Another former chief minister Koda, who had ruled the state for the maximum period of 23 months as an Independent MLA and had headed a Congress-JMM-RJD combine UPA, is in the fray from Majhgaon on a Jai Bharat Samanta Party ticket.
Incumbent Agriculture minister Banna Gupta (Jamshedpur -West), HRD minister Geetashree Oraon (Sisai) and Industry minister Champai Soren (Seraikella) are in the fray.
Counting of votes will be held on December 23.