Langate assembly segment in the border district of Kupwara in north Kashmir has remained in news for the last six years for its firebrand MLA Engineer Abdul Rashid who shot to prominence after raising hue and cry over controversial issues like AFSPA and amnesty for Afzal Guru.
The seat is going to polls on December 2, in the second phase of elections in the state.
Langate, which has been Rashid's stronghold for a long time now, is likely to witness a three-cornered contest. The AIP candidate is being challenged by Advocate Mohammad Abdullah of People’s Conference (PC)'s and People’s Democratic Party's (PDP) Ghulam Nabi Panditpuri.
The other candidates, including National Conference’s Wali Muhammad and Bashir Ahmad Wani of the Congress, are not creating too much buzz in the area.
The poll outcome, however, can throw up surprises as is traditionally known of the voters in Langate.
The unpredictable nature of the constituency can be measured by the outcome of the last few elections.
In 1999 when bye-elections were held in the segment following the death of National Conference legislator Abdul Ahad Kar, who had won in 1996 elections, Muhammad Sultan Pandipuri (independent) emerged as the winner. This was the time when National Conference had 57 legislators in the Assembly.
In 2002 election however, the voters again chose to vote against the tide. When NC bigwigs including Omar Abdullah were trounced the party won the segment by a margin of 2700 votes. 2008 was a similar upset when Rashid, then an independent candidate, won. That year the National Conference was not even the runner up.
Rashid launched his Awami Ittehaad Party in 2013. The launch was controversial as Rashid's party promised to make a difference by not giving membership to anyone who has an FIR against (for stone pelting or other subversive activities) against them.
Inspite of grabbing many headlines during his tenure, Rashid is facing a tough task in the coming elections.
Rashid is banking on development works and other initiatives launched by him in the constituency during the past six years. Besides, he is also expecting that “sense of security” provided by him to the masses would turn the tide in his favour.
“My people love me and the fact that I have moved around in my constituency for the last six years without security speaks about their love for me,” he said. In the recent Lok Sabha polls, Rashid, who contested the polls from Baramulla, secured more votes than PC as well as PDP. The PDP however is hopeful than the voters will favour the party. “These smaller parties thrive on poll boycott. However we have made a lot of progress since last ti me,” said PDP spokesman Naeem Akhtar. PC chief Sajad Lone is also working hard to get a few seats in his kitty to be relevant in post-poll politics.