Media-savvy Anantnag MP Mirza Mehboob Beg is the son of ruling National Conference (NC) stalwart late Mirza Muhammad Afzal Beg, who was close to then NC patron Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah.
The younger Beg remained a party loyalist through the ups and downs the NC faced during the two decades of militancy. He still banks on the loyalty factor of the six-decade-old party’s cadre, which is dwindling because of new political forces.
Among the old warhorses, Beg strongly advocated the restoration of the state’s autonomy in Parliament during his tenure. In 2010, he asked New Delhi to address the Kashmir problem politically, which Beg says “is not just about unemployment”. He is a strong votary of more constitutional privileges to the state in relation to the Union.
Beg also expressed his annoyance at Parliament rejecting the state assembly’s autonomy resolution passed in the late 1990s. Besides autonomy, the issues of water, power generation and fallout of the Indus Water Treaty remained constant references in his speeches. He also suggested that the House push for a dialogue with all Kashmir groups, including those represented by separatists.
The MP pressed hard for the return of a few power projects to the state to stabilise its economy. The main development planks of Beg in the House remained promotion of sports to engage the youth positively, widening of the national highway, and compensation to landowners.
He also pitched hard for the revival of the handloom industry in the state and a medical college in his constituency. However, there is little movement on both fronts.
Beg, a two-time MLA, is precariously placed for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. He is up against opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti, who is banking on anti-incumbency.
Socio-religious group Jamaat-e-Islami will also play a key role in south Kashmir. In the past, the Jamaat supported the PDP, and if that unwritten and unsaid alliance functions again, Beg may find it difficult to retain his seat.
New, smaller parties, such as the Awami Itehad Party, and Independent candidates are also keen to play spoilsport. Besides, old, entrenched politicians such as Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) leader Muhammad Yousuf Tarigami, MLA from Kulgam, can also contribute to shifting the equations.
According to Tanveer Hussain, a social activist from south Kashmir, “Despite being a prominent NC leader and member of Parliament, Beg sahib restricted himself to the Anantnag assembly constituency. He has rarely visited other districts of his parliamentary constituency. A look at the fund allocation figures shows that money was distributed to keep a few people in good humour and not allocated for the larger good of the MP’s constituency.”
“He would mainly stay in New Delhi. His focus always remained on the ‘larger’ politics of the NC and he missed out on development issues faced by the people here,” said Nazir Ahmad, a resident of Anantnag.
Part 13 of 34,
Navjot Singh Sidhu, Amritsar