Parties In J&K Luring Campaigners, Poll Officials, Candidates!

4 November 2008
The Hindu

Srinagar: With people in the Kashmir valley being apprehensive of the upcoming assembly polls in the state due to the boycott call by separatists, political parties are resorting to desperate moves to lure campaigners and poll officials and even find prospective candidates. Janata Party has inserted an advertisement in newspapers here seeking candidates and campaigners for the polls. The advertisement, carrying a photograph of the party's national working president Vijay Mallya, asks prospective candidates to contact the party's state unit chief Somnath Dabgotra at Jammu. 'We are looking for candidates for various constituencies. So far we have finalised our candidates for Habba Kadal, Ganderbal and Kupwara constituencies of Kashmir,' said Dabgotra. Another advertisement goes as 'Urgently required 20 people, Kashmiri Muslims of Habba Kadal constituency for poll campaign'. Interestingly, one Sunil Dutt has been named the Janata Party candidate for Habba Kadal, which has a sizeable number of Kashmiri Pandit voters. 'We need 20 to 30 people for Habba Kadal. They should be voters of the constituency and will get Rs 500 daily for campaigning for the party,' Dabgotra said. The government too is trying to woo voters and polling staff through advertisements with lucrative offers. Since major unions of employees are part of the separatists coordination committee spearheading the movement for right to self determination, the government faces a tough challenge to arrange personnel for the polls. The government has announced that an employee who will attend poll duties will get Rs 10,000 in the first phase and Rs 5,000 in subsequent phases, the amount being much more than previous occasions. Besides an employee will have Rs 10 lakh insurance cover ex-gratia relief if he dies during poll duty, Rs five lakh in case of serious injury and Rs one lakh for 'partial disability'. The kin of the deceased employees would get a job, the government announced few days back. Chief Electoral Officer B R Sharma said the cash incentives have been increased this year because it 'would be difficult for employees to come out for poll duty in winter'. Some mainstream parties too are offering jobs and other sops to people, mostly unemployed youth, to volunteer in the campaign, sources said. The separatists are opposing the polls saying these are aimed at hoodwinking the international community and will not resolve the Kashmir issue. Given the situation in the state, police will provide a minimum cover of two personal security officers to each candidate along with a vehicle until the poll process ends, a top police official said. The official, however, said that extra security cover will be provided after proper verification only to those candidates who have a perception of threat. Some candidates including Independents have been demanding security at their houses and squad gypsies on the plea that they have received threats. The Election Commission has sought the services of nearly 5000 Urdu-knowing employees of different states to oversee the polls here.