Testing times ahead for Kashmir parties
18 March 2006
Srinagar: The by-election to the four Assembly seats in Jammu and Kashmir will be a challenge for the Opposition National Conference and the People's Democratic Party, part of the coalition government, to prove their performance on the ground. The four constituencies — Pattan, Sangrama, Rafiabad in Baramulla district and Bhaderwah in Doda district — are scheduled to go to the polls on April 24. Three of the seats were vacated by the incumbents and two of them are testing their popularity from a different platform. Dillawar Mir and Moulvi Iftikhar Ansari resigned from the National Conference to join PDP, and will now be contesting the same seats. Congress leader Mohammad Sharief Niaz stepped down from Bhaderwah to make way for his cousin and Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. Mr. Azad is not a member of either of the Houses and has to be elected. The Sangrama seat fell vacant after then Minister of State and PDP member Ghulam Nabi Lone was gunned down by militants on October 18 last year. Apart from facing the Opposition National Conference, the Congress and the PDP are yet to sort out their differences over the fielding of candidates in three constituencies of Kashmir. The Congress is eyeing at least one seat in Rafiabad, where its senior vice president Abdul Gani Vakil contested the 2002 elections against Mr. Mir. In the case of Sangrama, the party is not ready to contest as it was held by the PDP. It also does not have a suitable candidate to contest from Pattan.