March 2017 News

Lok Sabha Bypolls: Parties Restrict Campaigning In Valley To Indoors Only

21 March 2017
The New Indian Express


Srinagar: The political parties have restricted their election campaign for bypolls to two parliamentary seats in the Valley to indoor only. The ruling PDP candidates are pitched in direct fight against candidates of opposition National Conference-Congress combine in two parliamentary seats in Valley - Srinagar-Budgam seat in central Kashmir and Anantnag-Pulwama seat in Anantnag. Both the seats were won by PDP in 2014 general elections. However, the bypolls have been necessitated as Mehbooba Mufti, who was elected from Anantnag-Pulwama seat, took over as Chief Minister of the State on April 4 last year and resigned from the Lok Sabha seat. The Srinagar-Budgam seat fell vacant after Tariq Hamid Karra resigned in September last year from PDP and Lok Sabha to protest mishandling of situation by the PDP-BJP government during in the Valley last year. NC working president Farooq Abdullah is the joint NC-Congress candidate for Srinagar seat while State Congress chief G A Mir is combine's candidate for Anantnag seat. The PDP has given mandate to Nazir Ahmad Khan, who recently defected from Congress, for Srinagar seat and Mehbooba's cinematographer brother Tassaduq Mufti for Anantnag seat. The PDP, NC and Congress have begun campaigning for bypolls to Srinagar and Anantnag seats, the elections for which will be held on April 9 and April 12 respectively. However, unlike past elections, the parties have confined their campaigning to indoors only. The PDP, NC and Congress leaders have been addressing party workers and supporters at the party headquarters or at other 'safe venues'. So far the parties have refrained from holding any open election campaign. The parties have also not yet started door-to-door campaigning to woo the voters. According to political analysts, parties are preferring indoor and staying away from holding open campaigning because of the unrest last year. There is anger among people against the ruling party for using excessive force to quell mass protests during over five months of unrest in Valley last year triggered by killing of 21-year-old Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8, 2016, they said. According to them, since the situation is still volatile, the parties may not go for open campaigning because of threat of 'stone pelting' and 'attacks by locals'. South Kashmir, which was the stronghold of PDP, was the epicenter of last year's unrest. Most of 92 civilians killing and over 13000 injuries in security forces firing took place in South Kashmir comprising four districts of Anantnag, Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam. Political analyst Aadil Ahmed said it would be interesting to see whether PDP goes for open campaigning in its 'once stronghold' during this election. The separatist leaders have called for election boycott and asked people to stay away from the electoral process. Srinagar has always been a stronghold of separatists and since poll boycott call has been given, it needs to be seen whether the parties will confine their poll campaign to indoor only or hold open rallies in central Kashmir comprising three districts of Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal,' Aadil said.

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