Fate of 271 candidates including two former chief ministers -- Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Ghulam Nabi Azad -- would be sealed on Wednesday, as 16 constituencies of Jammu and Kashmir go to polls in the sixth round of the seven-phase assembly elections.
As many as 20,000 additional security forces personnel and nearly 10,000 local policemen have been deployed at 1,268 polling stations set up in the 16 assembly seats spread over five districts of Anantnag, Kulgam, Doda, Ramban and Kishtwar, official sources said.
While three districts of Kishtwar, Doda and Ramban fall in Jammu division, Kulgam and Anantnag are in the Valley.
Former chief minister and People's Democratic Party chief Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who won from Pahalgam constituency in the 2004 by-poll, is contesting from Anantnag this time. Although there are 23 candidates in fray, Sayeed is facing a stiff competition from his former lieutenant and National Conference state president Mehboob Beg.
Former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who like his bete-noire Mufti Sayeed, entered the state assembly for the first time through by-polls in 2006, is seeking re-election from Bhaderwah constituency.
Though there are 13 candidates in the fray, Azad's challenge comes from former advocate general and National Conference nominee Mohammad Aslam Goni, Sheikh Mujeeb of PDP and D K Kotwal of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Ten former ministers including Abdul Aziz Zargar, Abdul Rehman Veeri, Abdul Gaffar Sofi, Peer Mohammad Hussain, G A Mir, Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed, G M Saroori, Mehboob Beg, Sakina Itoo and Peerzada Ghulam Ahmed Shah are also seeking a re-run in the state assembly. State secretary of the Communist Party of India Marxist Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami is also in the fray.
As compared to 2002 assembly elections when 124 candidates were fighting it out, this time a record number of 271 leaders, including 11 women, are trying their luck in 16 constituencies.
Banihal constituency has as many as 24 candidates, followed by 23 in Anantnag, 20 each in Kokernag, Dooru, Devsar and Doda, 18 each in Inderwal and Kulgam, 17 in Shangus, 15 in Noorabad, 13 each in Homshalibugh, Bhaderwah, Ramban and Kishtwar, 12 each in Pahalgam and Bijbehara.
Barring the death of a PDP activist in a political clash at Dhamhal Hanjipora in Kulgam district, campaigning for the sixth round concluded peacefully on Monday.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was also on a campaign trail and addressed a rally at Khundroo in Shangus segment in southern Kashmir on Sunday.
Former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Union Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz campaigned extensively for their respective parties.