A day after the Bharatiya Janata Party's central election committee released a list of 45 candidates for the upcoming Jammu and Kashmir assembly elections, Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) announced its candidate for the much-awaited Habbakadal seat, ending speculations that the two parties might jointly field candidates to consolidate the 'non-Muslim' votes.
While the committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the list on Sunday for 45 seats, including the 11 seats in the Valley, the LJP announced the candidature of Sanjay Saraf for Habbakadal. Saraf will contest against BJP's Moti Kaul. The seat had once been an NC stronghold. Habbakadal was one of the few assembly segments where the NC had an upper hand during the last Lok Sabha elections.
NC candidate Shamima Firdous is said to have a good support base here.
Union minister for consumer affairs and food Ram Vilas Paswan addressing a press conference in Srinagar on Monday. Waseem Andrabi/HT
In 2008, BJP's Hira Lal Chatta was a distant second with 671 votes against National Conference's Shameema Firdous, who won the polls with 2,374 votes.
For the BJP and the LJP, Srinagar's Habbakadal constituency, with significant minority votes and effective boycott by separatists, it's all set to witness an important contest.
Earlier, both the parties were holding talks to field a joint candidate to consolidate non-Muslim votes.
"Talks were being held but the BJP went ahead with its own candidate. We opposed the candidature as BJP's nominee is based in Mumbai, while only someone with some standing in the Valley will succeed,'' said Sanjay Saraf, LJP candidate for the seat.
Saraf, hit the headlines earlier this year for being the BJP emissary to hold parleys with hardline Hurryat chairman Syed Ali Geelani. He was seen as an active worker, mobilising relief works during the recent floods and constantly being in touch with local Muslims, migrant and non-migrant Kashmiri Pandits.
He said his party banks on development plank. "The BJP is banking on boycott. It is illegal and unconstitutional. The candidate who has a good support among the Muslims in the area will win,'' Saraf added.
Habbakadal remains a key seat for the BJP in its Mission 44-plus.
The BJP, however, said, it is fighting the elections alone. "We have coalition at the Centre, there was no such commitment at the state-level,'' said Altaf Thakur, party's media coordinator in Kashmir.