March 2016 News

Eye On South Kashmir By-polls, NC, Congress Gear Up For Battle

31 March 2016
Greater Kashmir
Abid Bashir

Srinagar: The former allies National Conference and Congress have started homework to 'frame a strategy' for by-elections to be held for Anantnag Assembly segment and South Kashmir Parliamentary seat this year. While Anantnag Assembly seat is vacant and, according to officials, should go to polls by July 7, the South Kashmir Parliamentary seat would fall vacant after six months as the Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti can continue as the Chief Minister of the State and also as the Member Parliament for this period. The PDP chief has staked claim for government formation before Governor N N Vohra recently with active support from its former ally BJP. The Anantnag Assembly seat has fallen vacant after the demise of former Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed on January 7 this year. According to J&K's Chief Electoral Officer, Shantmanu, July 7 is the deadline for holding elections for Anantnag Assembly seat while the PDP chief can continue as 'the MP for South Kashmir seat for six months despite holding the Chief Minister's chair.' The NC and Congress are 'hopeful' that there may be mid-term polls for Anantnag Assembly seat as it can't remain vacant for long and that the Election Commission of India may adopt similar approach for the South Kashmir Parliamentary seat as well. 'We are aware of the political situation that has emerged after the demise of former Chief Minister and now after the reports of government formation between PDP and BJP,' NC's General Secretary Ali Muhammad Sagar told Greater Kashmir. He said NC has worked hard over the past more than a year to 'strengthen its base' in South Kashmir. 'We are strong in Pulwama, Shopian and Anantnag as well and can emerge victorious. Let's first see whether there will be mid-term polls for Anantnag Assembly constituency; if yes, we will accordingly work out the strategy,' he said. He said the NC leadership will take a call on the issue in its April 16 Working Committee meeting to be chaired by its patron Dr Farooq Abdullah. 'We will chalk our strategy there,' he said. On whether NC would field a joint candidate with its former ally Congress for South Kashmir Parliamentary seat, he said: 'The party leadership will discuss the issue in the April 16 meeting.' On the other hand, Congress asserts that the party base in South Kashmir is 'very strong.' 'We are ready to face the elections any time now. Let us first wait till the formation of government as Mehbooba Mufti is still MP for South Kashmir seat. But yes Anantnag Assembly seat has fallen vacant after the demise of former Chief Minister,' said J&K Congress chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir. He said 'we will have to see which candidates PDP would field for the two seats.' On whether Congress has any plans to go jointly with the NC in the polls, Mir said: 'It's too early to comment on the issue. We will obviously deliberate on this and accordingly take a final call.' Mehbooba had won South Kashmir Parliamentary seat in 2014, defeating then NC leader Mehboob Beg by over 40,000 votes. Beg later joined PDP. The Anantnag Assembly seat was bagged by late Mufti in December 2014 with over 16000 votes. Congress's Hilal Ahmed Shah was the runner up, who secured over 10,000 votes while NC's IfthikarHussainMisgar pocketed only 2400 votes. The then NC leader Mehboob Beg withdrew from the contest against late Mufti. Shantmanu said the Anantnag Assembly seat has fallen vacant and bi-elections are due for the seat by July 7. 'As far as South Kashmir Parliamentary constituency is concerned, Mehbooba continues to be the MP and she can continue as the Chief Minister and MP for six months. The only binding on her is that she can't attend the Parliament session and luckily there is no session in between,' the CEO said.