April 2019 News
NC, Congress Bank On Near-boycott By Voters In PDP Strongholds, Split In Rivals' Vote Share25 April 2019
Srinagar: The National Conference (NC) and Congress are heavily banking on the near-boycott in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) strongholds in southern Kashmir and the vote split between the regional parties, People's Conference (PC) and the Awami Ittehad Party (AIP), to romp home in the parliamentary elections here. The fate of the Lok Sabha seats of Anantnag, Srinagar and Baramulla will be decided in the election. In the PDP's strongholds of the Anantnag and Bijebehara Assembly segments, the voting percentage was only 3.4 percent and 2.04 percent percent respectively. Bijebehara is the hometown of Mehbooba Mufti, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and PDP president. On the other hand, at Congress state president GA Mir's birthplace of Dooru, 17.2 percent polling was seen. In the Shangus Assembly segment which was represented by the Congress in the recently-dissolved Assembly, the voting percentage was 15.01. In the Kokernag and Pahalgam segments, 19.5 percent and 20.3 percent voting respectively was recorded. The NC has fielded retired judge Hasnain Masoodi against Mir and Mehbooba in Anantnag. PDP spokesperson Rafi Ahmad Mir admitted that the Congress state president may have an edge in the Dooru segment as he is from the town, but said that the PDP is leading in the seat as a whole. He said that people are turning up in strength at Mufti's rallies in the constituency. Mir said that Mufti held a road campaign at Pulwama on Wednesday and a public meeting at Kulgam on Thursday. Omar Abdullah, former chief minister and NC vice-president, said on Wednesday, 'Due to the near-boycott in some areas, the contest in Anantnag is between the NC and Congress. The low voter turnout should be a wake-up call for both the Narendra Modi-led Centre as well as the PDP.' At Baramulla in north Kashmir, the NC hopes to secure an edge due to a split in votes between the People's Conference (PC) led by former minister Sajad Gani Lone, and the Awami Ittehad Party (AIP) headed by Er Rashid. Rashid is one of the candidates in Baramulla. The Congress has fielded a lesser-known candidate, Farooq Ahmad Mir, from the constituency. The Congress has decided to support NC president and former chief minister Farooq Abdullah on the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat. Congress vice-president GN Monga, however, said, that the party's vote share will be higher than that of the others at both Anantnag and Baramulla. 'The policies of the PDP and BJP have resulted in a groundswell of resentment against them,' he said. Sources said that the Congress was earlier considering fielding either former Union minister Saifuddin Soz or his son Salman Soz from Baramulla, but decided to field Farooq Mir at the 'last hour.' The Congress has promised in its manifesto that it will not allow the erosion of Jammu and Kashmir's special status, will cut down on the number of troops in Kashmir, and review the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) to 'balance the need for security and human rights' in the state. Human rights activists say that the AFSPA is being misused by the army, whose officials cannot be brought to trial in a civilian court in criminal cases filed by the police. In Baramulla, NC candidate Mohammad Akbar Lone said that he is 'winning hands down.' In the constituency's Handwara and Kupwara Assembly segments, where the PC has a sizeable vote share, the polling percentage was 60 percent and 58 percent respectively, while in Langate, which was represented by Er Rashid in the Assembly, the polling percentage was 35.5 percent. A large number of people also turned up to vote in Tangmarg, which is the hometown of PDP candidate Abdul Qayoom Wani. IAS topper-turned politician Shah Faesal has also extended his support to Rashid. In Baramulla, Tangmarg witnessed the third highest-polling percentage of 33.5 percent after Uri and Pattan. The PC hopes to have an edge over other candidates from Pattan, where former minister Imran Ansari joined the party after leaving the PDP. It also hopes to do well in Uri, where its candidate and former inspector general of police, Raja Aijaz Ali, had cornered a sizeable vote share in the last Assembly election. Mohammad Abbas Wani, former MLA and senior PC leader, said that the party is not only leading in north Kashmir, but also in Srinagar and Anantnag. At Anantnag, however, the PC has fielded a lesser-known candidate, Zafar Ali. In Srinagar, the party fielded Shia leader Irfan Ansari, who may have eaten into the vote base of PDP candidate Aga Syed Mohsin. The voting percentage in Zadibal and Budgam, segments with a sizeable Shia population, was 8.3 percent and 18.8 percent respectively. The Lok Sabha elections also also seen to be preparing the ground for political alliances and agendas for the Assembly elections, which may be held after the Lok Sabha election. BJP state spokesperson Altaf Thakur said that the 'party has gained in vote share in all the three constituencies of Lok Sabha in Kashmir and we will give a strong fight in the Assembly polls.' On Saturday, BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav will address a rally in militancy-affected Kulgam on Saturday to canvas for party candidate Sofi Yusuf, who is contesting from the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat. The party has fielded its senior leaders Mohammad Maqbool War and Khalid Jehangir from Baramulla and Srinagar respectively.