The stage is set for the second phase of assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir which will seal the fate of 175 candidates, including the deputy speaker, four ministers and 11 other sitting MLAs, amidst tight security in Kulgam and Kupwara districts following the murder of a sarpanch by militants.
"We have deployed an additional 220 companies of paramilitary security personnel, besides the police for the second phase of polling tomorrow in two districts of the valley," Inspector General of Police Kashmir A G Mir said.
Mir said that based on the experience from the first phase of polling, "we have fine tuned our preparations for the second phase."
He said the security grid is fully geared up to foil any attempts made by militants to disrupt the democratic process.
The increased paramilitary presence comes after militants shot dead a National Conference sarpanch Mohammad Sultan Bhat in Shopian district on Sunday night. Although Shopian is not going to polls on Tuesday, it shares its boundary with the Kulgam district where polling is to be held.
As many as 18 assembly segments, spread over five districts -- two in the valley and three in the Jammu region -- will go to polls on Tuesday to decide the fate of 175 candidates which includes Sakina Ittoo, the lone woman minister in the National Conference and Congress party coalition government.
Of the 18 constituencies, Handwara in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district will be the focus of attention as separatist-turned-mainstream politician Sajad Gani Lone is making his debut in assembly elections after unsuccessfully contesting the Lok Sabha polls in 2009.
Lone's campaign has come under attack from the National Conference after the former separatist leader met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 10. Although he dismissed suggestions that the meeting had anything to do with the elections, this defence could not hold much water in view of the Bharatiya Janata Party not fielding a candidate from Lone’s constituency.