In April two LoK sabha seats in the Valley are going to polls and it is turning out to be the clash of titans as the entry of three top leaders from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), National Conference and Congress have made these by elections interesting and important for the political parties especially the ruling PDP as the scion of Mufti family, Tasaduq Mufti is contesting his first election from south Kashmir.
Both the parliament seats got vacant when Mehbooba Mufti took oath as the J&K chief minister on April 4, 2016 after the death of her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed on March 7 last year. Mehbooba contested and won the assembly elections from Anantnag constituency that was represented by her father.
And the PDP’s member from Srinagar Lok sabha seat and one of the founding members of the PDP Tariq Hameed Karra resigned not only from the PDP but also from parliament seat blaming leadership of PDP and the Bhartiya Janta Party for killing innocent civilians in the Valley during the unrest last year that got triggered after the killing of prominent commander of Hizbul Mujahideen Burhan Wani who was killed in an encounter in south Kashmir on July 8 last year.
The killing of Burhan Wani sparked series of protests in Kashmir that left more than 90 civilians dead and thousands injured especially with pellets. Due to the uncertainty and law and order situation the Election Commission of India had to postpone the elections. With dates announced all the three major mainstream political parties have decided to field political heavy weights to wrest these by elections. PDP has decided to field Tasaduq Mufti brother of J&K chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti from Anantnag Lok sabha seat. Tasaduq, 45, a cinematographer by profession who had worked in top bollywood films was brought into politics by Mehbooba Mufti after the death of her father as she wanted close family men around her. Tasaduq though has been learning the ropes of politics from her elder sister in the past many months; however, he formally joined the PDP on the first death anniversary of his father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed at indoor stadium where PDP held an impressive show. It is going to be the first political test of Tasaduq and his first election. Tasaduq who takes keen interest in environment is already taking meeting of officials at the official residence of J&K chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti. Though PDP leadership is confident that PDP will easily retain the seat, however, the tie up between NC and Congress on the two seats has not only made this an important political battle but also interesting. “We will win this seat easily as people of south Kashmir know how much development PDP has brought. The party workers are already geared up,’’ said a Youth PDP leader who is campaigning for Tasaduq in south Kashmir. Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress president and former minister Ghulam Ahmad Mir is the joint candidate of NC and Congress. Mir is entirely banking on his home constituency Dooru and the constituencies where NC and Congress have a good network of workers. By his experience, Mir is going to sleepless nights to the PDP as the party won’t think of losing the seat that is being contested by scion of Mufti family. “Things have changed now. I don’t think PDP will be able to retain this seat as NC- Congress tie up has made things very much difficult for the party,’’ said chief campaigner of Mir. On the other hand Congress and NC leadership are trying to exploit PDP’s tie up with RSS. Both Tasaduq Mufti and Ghulam Ahmad Mir have already started their election campaign. From Srinagar, former J&K chief minister and NC patron Farooq Abdullah is the candidate and Congress has decided to support him. Srinagar has always been the bastion of NC but in last parliament elections, Farooq Abdullah lost elections to Karra by a margin of 40000 votes. This time NC is hopeful of defeating the PDP and has already tried to exploit the short comings of the ruling party, especially the role played by the party leadership during the last year’s unrest.
“Our’s is the best possible strategy to defeat the ruling party,’’ NC working president Omar Abdullah said. “After serious deliberations we have decided that NC will contest from Srinagar and Congress from Anantnag. The NC workers in south Kashmir will campaign for Congress and the leaders and workers of Congress will seek votes for Farooq Abdullah.’’ Omar also blamed the ruling party for downgrading the security of NC and Congress leaders as they don’t want them to campaign. “Even security of former ministers has been withdrawn as the Election Commission of India should take note of it.’’
Farooq Abdullah is strong candidate and has good following in the Srinagar and to counter NC veteran the PDP has given mandate to Nazir Ahmad Khan who recently joined PDP after leaving the Congress. Khan was originally a PDP activist, however in last assembly elections he left the PDP and joined Congress later he contested elections from Beerwah and lost elections to Omar Abdullah by less than 1200 votes. The PDP leadership is banking on the goodwill of Khan in Budgam and Beerwah areas and think they could retain the seat as they are hopeful of urban areas in the Srinagar Lok sabha seat will boycott the polls. “This time it will be difficult to defeat Farooq Abdullah as NC has already learnt its lessons after the defeats in parliament and then assembly elections. The party has managed to reorganize itself,’’ said a senior NC leader who is part of NC campaign committee.
On its part the separatist leadership has already asked people to stay away from the elections and termed the by-polls as sham elections which is being used by the Indian politicians to undermine the ongoing freedom struggle.
Asking people of South Kashmir and Srinagar to boycott the polls, the separatist leaders – Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Syed Ali Geelani and Yasin Malik have asked people that participation in elections provides India an opportunity to mislead the world community. Leaders in a joint statement released on Thursday said that amid ten lakh forces personnel, the election drama has lost relevance and credibility.
“Allow us to meet people not a single person will cast their vote;’’ the leaders said and blamed the government for strangulating the legitimate voice of the people.
The leaders said that these elections are being enacted to mislead international community and India is desperate to justify its occupation and as such these shame elections are being enacted.
“’India and its henchmen in state portray these elections as a people’s consent and acceptance of Indian hegemony in state,’’ the statement said.
The separatists leadership asked the people to safeguard sacrifices rendered by people and urged people to stay away from these election dramas.
The leaders said that through these elections they have always installed their blue-eyed stooges to mislead world opinion. Meanwhile posters of Hizbul Mujahideen have appeared in south Kashmir’s Pulwama area in which people have been asked to stay away from the by elections as participation in the elections will be betrayal with martyrs. The militants have also asked people to boycott the elections and termed these elections as a ploy to hoodwink the struggle of Kashmiri people. At many places especially in south Kashmir the posters of militant’s outfits have surfaced. In the posters, people have been warned of dire consequences if they came out to vote. Even the posters have asked leadership of mainstream parties to keep away from the villages and towns of south Kashmir otherwise they will face harsh consequences. Meanwhile, J&K’s chief electoral officer has declared all the polling stations in two parliament seats of Srinagar and Anantnag sensitive and hyper sensitive. The state government has asked Centre to send more troops to the areas where elections are being held as they fear violence on the day of polling, especially after the number of militants have increased in the Valley especially in south Kashmir during the unrest period. The Chief Electoral Officer J&K, Shantmanu said that more than one section of troops will be deployed on the polling station. “All polling stations have been declared sensitive and hyper sensitive as the government doesn’t want to take any risk and put lives of voters.’’ The opposition leaders are hopeful of winning seats as they say they will highlight the issue of pellets and failure of governance since PDP came to power in Jammu and Kashmir and blamed the party for forcing the agenda of Rashtriya Seva Sangh in the Muslim majority state.
From the print edition of 22-28 March 2017.