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JK polls: 3rd phase holds key to PDP”s bid to return to power

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pollsSrinagar, Dec 7 (PTI) The fate of Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and three of his cabinet colleagues will be decided in the third phase of polling, which also holds the key to power for the opposition PDP that won nine of the 16 seats last time.

The sixteen Assembly constituencies spread over three districts — Budgam, Pulwama and Baramulla — will go to polls on Tuesday when 13.69 lakh electors, including 6.51 lakh women, will decide the fate of 144 candidates among whom are the Chief Minister, three of his cabinet colleagues and 10 other sitting MLAs.

Omar, who chose to contest from Beerwah in Budgam instead of his family bastion of Ganderbal, hopes that some of the recent steps taken by his government for the area will help him sail through the electoral tide from a constituency which was won by PDP candidates in the last two elections.

Among many decisions, the Omar government did not extend the lease to the Army for using Tosamaidan meadows, falling in the Beerwah constituency, as a firing practice range following widespread opposition from the locals. He also ensured that the Army cleared the area of the littered shells, which had claimed more than 60 lives in the past two decades.

Omar has extensively campaigned in the area and will be banking on support from his National Conference party seniors and prominent Shia leaders Aga Roohullah and Aga Syed Mehmood, who have significant influence in pockets of this seat.

NC working president Omar, who is also contesting from the Sonawar Assembly seat, was given a rousing welcome when he filed his nomination papers from this constituency last month.

Omar, who is seeking a second term in the Assembly, faces a stiff challenge from sitting PDP MLA Mohammad Shafi Wani and Congress nominee Nazir Ahmad Khan, whose father Sarfaraz Khan had won from Beerwah in 2002 elections as a PDP candidate.

More than Omar, the third phase polling is important for the opposition PDP which hopes to return to power this time.

PDP represents nine of the 16 seats while the ruling NC holds only four. Congress and Peoples Democratic Front won one seat each in the last polls while one seat went to Independent.

While PDP has re-nominated six sitting MLAs including Wani, it has fielded fresh faces in three other seats won by it in the 2008 Assembly elections.

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