Srinagar crucial for National Conference's fate

  • Toufiq Rashid, Hindustan Times, Srinagar
  • Updated: Dec 10, 2014 21:15 IST

The result of the Lok Sabha elections earlier this year was more a loss for the National Conference patron Farooq Abdullah than a victory for the PDP candidate Tariq Hameed Karra.

A few months on, the NC is trying hard to retain its bastion in the ongoing assembly elections.

Eight constituencies in Srinagar district are going to poll in the fourth phase of elections on December 14.

In the absence of the charismatic Abdullah senior, who is ill and being treated in London, Omar, the NC's working president, is rallying hard in Srinagar.

On Tuesday, as voting in the third phase was going on in 16 constituencies, including in Omar's constituency Beerwah in central Kashmir, the junior Abdullah was busy campaigning in five constituencies in Srinagar.

Srinagar has traditionally been an NC bastion. All eight constituencies in Srinagar were won by the NC in the 2008 assembly elections. However PDP has an edge as most assembly segments in the state's summer capital showed Karra leading during the LS polls.

Much is at stake for the NC in Srinagar. Omar Abdullah is also contesting from Sonawar; the party general secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar is taking on former trade unionist Khurshid Alam, fighting on PDP ticket, in Khanyar.

Nasir Aslam Wani, the party's Valley chief, is contesting from Amirakadal, one of the two seats in Srinagar where BJP is hopeful of a win. BJP's face in Valley, Hina Bhat, the daughter of a former NC stalwart is Wani's opponent here.

Besides, the BJP's Pandit face, Motilal Kaul, called a "jujaroo leader" by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is contesting from the neighbouring Habba Kadal.

The BJP has however pitched a comparatively lightweight Darkshan Andrabi against Omar Abdullah in Sonwar. About 95 candidates are in the fray.

Equally concerned is the PDP.

"Srinagar is very crucial for us; it is the lifeline of the state. We are hopeful of repeating the performance of Lok Sabha elections. The mood in the city has become more anti following the performance of the NC in floods,'' said PDP spokesman Naeem Akhtar.

But NC office bearers are optimistic. "In 2008 we were fighting elections in a coalition. The anti vote got consolidated and also Congress indulged in cross-voting. This time we are hopeful that people will vote for our party as they have always done in the past,'' said National Conference's Valley chief, Nasir Aslam Wani.

Srinagar will be an interesting watch as it goes to polls on Sunday. The separatists' boycott call has been the most effective in Srinagar than other parts of the valley.

But the voter mood has also seen a little change of late. Srinagar had recorded just 20% voting in the 2008 assembly elections, but the figure was 27 % during the Lok Sabha polls.

Aijaz Ahmad, a resident in Srinagar, said he has not voted before, but plans to vote this time. "Anti BJP sentiment might force people to vote in areas where BJP is hopeful of a win,'' he added.

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