In its fourth list of candidates for the J&K elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Saturday announced peace activist Darakhshan Andrabi as its candidate against incumbent chief minister Omar Abdullah from Sonawar.
Most famous for celebrating Valentine's Day as a day of love on the border with Pakistan, she is being seen as a weak candidate as compared to Dr Hina Bhat, whose name was doing the rounds for BJP ticket so far.
Omar's father Farooq Abdullah had won from Sonawar in 2008 by just 94 votes. The CM is now contesting from Sonawar and Beerwah after moving away from his traditional Ganderbal seat. The move is seen as sign of nervousness after the National Conference lost all three seats it contested in Kashmir in the Lok Sabha polls. In its list of 16 candidates, BJP named Abdul Rasheed Bandey as its Beerwah nominee.
But the spotlight is on Andrabi's selction. The plan originally, sources said, was to field Dr Bhat from Sonawar as well as Amira Kadal. The choice now, though, has raised questions over the seriousness of the BJP to put up fight against Omar.
Andrabi recently joined the BJP after merging her Socialist Democratic Party founded in 2004 with it. A doctorate-holder in Urdu, she has never contested elections earlier. "Dr Bhat is a visible face of the party and also a doctor. She could have been a strong and serious candidate," remarked a senior BJP leader.
Andrabi, though, appeared confident: "Omar was flying for all six years of his tenure. I worked on the ground. I will not disappoint the party. Omar doesn't stand a chance."
Congress has fielded Khem Lata Wakhloo from Sonawar, while the PDP candidate is Mohammad Ashraf Mir. The constituency was carved out in 1995, and the NC has won it in the last three assembly elections