It is primarily a fight between a sitting MLA (member of legislative assembly) and a former bureaucrat on the Banihal assembly seat.
Congress candidate and sitting MLA Vikar Rasool, who is a minister in the present government, is getting a tough challenge from former bureaucrat Bashir Ahmad Rouniyal of the Peoples Democratic Party.
Vikar holds the portfolio of minister of state with independent charge of technical education. He also looks after law, justice, parliamentary affairs, rural development, panchayats, social welfare, power, hospitality and protocol, information and consumer affairs and public distribution departments.
But the minister is accused of favoritism as the development and other public welfare works were reportedly confined to 700 people, mainly workers of the Congress and the National Conference (NC).
Locals say that Vikar is only the minster of party workers and despite his tall claims, nothing has changed on the ground. They allege that the benefits of centrally-sponsored schemes were only confined to panches and sarpanches, having allegiance to the Congress and the NC.
In case of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS), more than 95% payment of wages was reportedly made fraudulently. The situation has come to such a pass that in the areas of party workers, damaged electric transformers were immediately replaced, while in most parts of the constituency it takes months, even a year, to repair.
On the other hand, Rouniyal has a clean image and people respect him. There seems to be a wave in his favour.
Sounding confident, Rouniyal says, “Most of the people of the area are agriculturists and they support me. They feel cheated, as only a few close to the minister (Vikar) got benefits. The railway projects of more than `1 crore are going to be set up in Banihal area and it is unfortunate that 90% workforce, even unskilled labour, is from outside. It seems that the minister is hand in glove with construction companies as he never raised this issue. Only his supporters and workers are engaged with them. Locals whose land was acquired by the railways should be given adequate relief and properly rehabilitated. Not a single penny has been spent under the corporate social responsibility.”
The NC candidate is also in the race to some an extent. Sajaad Shaheen is banking on granting of tehsil status to Gool and a government degree college to Ramsoo by the state government.
Meanwhile, locals do not think much of BJP candidate Shaukat Deng and prediction is that he will not get more than 1,000 votes.
Banihal, a Musilm-dominated constituency, has nearly 80,000 electorate. The constituency will go to polls in the first phase on November 25.
Locals feel discriminated as the remote areas of the constituency still crave for basic infrastructure. Though Banihal has seen some development due to the personal involvement of former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, people still feel left out and seek more development.