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Phase III: Mehbooba bids for Anantnag

Mukhtar Ahmad in Anantnag | May 04, 2004 19:27 IST

The political focus in Jammu and Kashmir has shifted to the Anantnag parliamentary constituency where the most prominent candidate is ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti.

The constituency in south Kashmir has been the hub of political activity right since 2002 when it elected as many as 12 PDP MLAs to the assembly, which played a major role in catapulting Mufti Mohammad Sayeed to the post of chief minister.

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Mehbooba Mufti is an aggressive campaigner who ruffled many feathers by challenging the 50-year-long political dominance of the Sheikh family and the National Conference.

In the second phase of polling in Srinagar on April 26, she got embroiled in a controversy by lifting the veil of a voter in a bid to deter bogus voters supposedly sent by the NC to improve the chances of its candidate, party president Omar Abdullah. The effort backfired as the lady turned out to be a genuine voter and the Election Commission later sought action against her.

Her main rival is NC provincial president and sitting MLA Dr Mehboob Beg. NC had won the seat in 1999.

The entry of Communist Party of India-Marxist state general secretary Yousuf Tarigami into the fray has made it a triangular contest. This will split the anti-NC vote.

The nearly 10lakh voters will decide their fate on Wednesday though separatists have called for a poll boycott and have aggressively been carrying out an anti-poll campaign throughout the constituency.

Authorities have thrown a thick security blanket over the entire constituency where 732 polling booths have been declared as sensitive and 291 as hypersensitive. Thousands of paramilitary and police personnel have been deployed to, an official said, 'instill confidence among voters'.

The polling staff, which reported for their duties two days in advance, were on Tuesday afternoon escorted to their respective heavily guarded polling booths.

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