The last day for withdrawal of nominations for the Jammu and Kashmir local body polls was overshadowed by the killing of two National Conference workers by terrorists in Srinagar. The men killed were close aides of Shamima Firdous, the National Conference legislator from Habba Kadal.
With the two regional political parties - National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party - boycotting the local body polls, the elections have become a direct contest between the two national parties - the BJP and the Congress.
The National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party have boycotted the elections in protest against the legal challenge to the Article 35A of the Indian Constitution in the Supreme Court.
The article accords special rights and privileges to the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir and bars people from outside from acquiring any immovable property in the state.
Instead of boycotting the polls, the Congress is using the Article 35A issue to pursue voters.
"Besides raising development and civic issues, our party is asking people to vote against the BJP. It is a communal party which should be kept away from the ruling setup of Jammu and Kashmir, in order to safeguard special status of the state," Jammu and Kashmir Congress president Ghulam Ahmed Mir told news agency Press Trust of India.
Mr Mir made it clear that preservation of Article 35A was a key issue for the party in the elections.
"The BJP has failed on the security and development fronts and we will also bring up the issue of Article 35A", the Congress' state unit chief said.
"Our candidates are campaigning and we are hopeful of a majority," Mr Mir added.
Mr Mir, who is leading the party's campaign, said that the Congress had fielded over 440 candidates in the polls and over 100 of them have been elected unopposed.
The BJP appears to be focussing more on civic issues.
The state BJP's general secretary (Organisation) Ashok Kaul, said that the BJP has focussed on proper sanitation, effective handling of garbage and recreational clubs for senior citizens in its manifesto.
"We have field over 850 candidates and several of our candidates have won uncontested, mostly in Kashmir," Mr Kaul told PTI.
Though the local body polls have largely become a two-horse race between the BJP and the Congress, the Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party is also in the running.
The party has fielded candidates in all 75 wards of the Jammu Municipal Corporation.
The party's chairman Harsh Dev Singh said that their aim is to expose the failures of both the BJP and the Congress.
He accused the two national parties of "marginalising" the Jammu region.
"The BJP and the Congress can't be allowed to go unchallenged. The Panthers Party is opposing all the leaders who have betrayed Jammu. We will defeat them", Mr Singh said.
The Panthers Party has taken a tough line on Article 35A, demanding its revocation while also criticising the BJP for "fooling the people" on the issue.
As many as 3,372 candidates have filed their nominations for the four-phased urban local body and municipal elections, out of which 192 candidates have been elected unopposed, and 2,688 are in contention till the third phase of the polls.
Today is the last day for withdrawing nominations. The 1,145 wards in the state have 16,97,291 voters.
The first phase of polling will be on October 8. The subsequent phases will be on October 10, October 13 and October 16.
The counting of the votes will begin on October 20.
In Kashmir, the elections are taking place in an atmosphere of fear, with terrorist groups targeting workers of political parties.
The state electoral machinery has decided to maintain secrecy over names of the winning candidates as it could jeopardise their safety.
With inputs from Press Trust of India.