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Poonch bypolls: Close contest on the cards
From Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar | December 09, 2007 19:39 IST
The prestigious Poonch Assembly by-election scheduled for December 12 is going to witness a tough contest between the candidates of ruling Congress and the Opposition National Conference (NC), with the coalition partner, People's Democratic Party (PDP) providing vital support to its Congress ally.
Apart from setting the tone for the next general elections to the 84-member state Assembly scheduled for September 2008, the by-election will be a litmus test for the performance of the state's ruling Congress-PDP combine.
The assembly seat of the border town of Poonch has traditionally been with the opposition NC. Although there are 8 candidates in the fray, the main electoral contest in this assembly constituency is going to be between the Congress candidate, Jehangir Mir and the NC candidate, Aijaz Jan.
Chief Minister Ghulam [Images] Nabi Azad and chief of the state unit of the Congress party Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed are campaigning for their party with the NC president Omar Abdullah throwing in his weight in favour of his candidate.
Both the Congress and the NC are wooing the Gujjar and Pahari voters in this constituency whose collective vote could substantially tilt the balance either way. The Congress has put up its veteran Gujjar leader, Chowdhary Mohammad Aslam, in the frontline of their campaign in this constituency while the NC has moved in some of its senior most Gujjar and Pahari leaders to tilt the balance in its favour.
Interestingly, both the Congress and the NC have been playing the reservation card to win the support of the Gujjars and Paharis in Poonch Assembly segment. Additional deployments of security forces are being made to secure the polling booths in the constituency and also to provide security to the election campaign by various parties.
Except for an odd explosion in which one policeman was injured in Poonch last week, the overall situation has so far remained peaceful in the constituency.
Authorities have worked out elaborate security arrangements for the smooth conduct of the poll process.