April 2019 News

Sajjad Lone, Er Rasheed's Part Over; Now Time For PDP's Acid Test

21 April 2019
Kashmir Reader
Junaid Nabi Bazaz

Srinagar: The Sajjad Lone-led Peoples Conference (PC) and Er Rasheed's Awami Ittehad Party, which have been making a strong pitch for an 'alternative' political leadership in Kashmir - in contrast to the dynastic National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party - have lost same pace in the election race as polls reach south Kashmir. None of the two have any potential candidate to take on heavyweights like NC, PDP and Congress. Lone's and Rasheed's intervention in north Kashmir parliamentary constituency had disrupted the traditional voter base of NC, PDP, and Congress alike. In Srinagar constituency, Sajjad Lone due to the Shia support of Imran Ansari, and some 300 deserters of BJP, had managed to secure votes, but for him it is tough to do the same in south Kashmir. In the four districts of the restive region - Anantnag, Shopian, Kulgam, Pulwama - that comprise one Lok Sabha seat, Lone has fielded Zaffar Ali, while Rasheed has Zubair Masoodi, both of whom are not known much. Even the PDP, which has won the seat since the party came into existence, is having a tough fight post the 2016 uprising here. 'We know we are weak in south, but we have started to work there as well. We don't expect much from there, but we have dedicatedly worked in Srinagar and north Kashmir,' a top PC leader told Kashmir Reader, requesting anonymity. The PC's mantra of looking for leaders from other parties, and gaining silent support from former legislators, a strategy it adopted in both north and central Kashmir, has not gained momentum in south Kashmir. No major leader has joined PC unlike the Ansaris from Srinagar and Panditporis in north Kashmir. The fight still is between NC, PDP and Congress. Though PDP's catastrophic experiment with the BJP has made it lose some ground, yet it is the foremost contender. The NC lost ground in south Kashmir when the son of its foremost leader there, Mirza Afzal Beg, joined PDP. The Congress, meanwhile, has some traditional base here. It remains to be seen how many of the 13.93 lakh voters will come out to vote in the elections that will be held in three intervals, and the timing for which has been reduced by two hours due to security concerns raised by the state police. The PDP last time managed to win a state assembly seat in south Kashmir which had been vacant due to the demise of Mufti Muhammad Sayeed. But then it had to face the 2016 uprising. With no elections held for three years, a lot has changed.