Woman candidates lead BJP's election war in Kashmir

  • Toufiq Rashid, Hindustan Times, Srinagar
  • Updated: Nov 17, 2014 22:54 IST

In a conservative neighbourhood in Sonawar constituency in Srinagar, knocking at the doors still soggy due to the September floods, asking for votes against the traditional favourite National Conference is a woman in dark glasses.

Flanked by a few security guards, she looks very much a candidate in the upcoming elections, but people still need her introduction. She is Darkhshan Andrabi, a lesser known politician and now the BJP's star candidate taking on NC's biggest name in 2014 elections, chief minister Omar Abdullah.

Andrabi will be the second woman candidate fighting the incumbent chief minister, while the Congress has announced Kashmiri Pandit leader and party stalwart Khem Lata Wakhloo for the seat.

The People's Democratic Party (PDP) is relying on Ashraf Mir who had given a tough fight to National Conference patron Farooq Abdullah in last two elections.

Andrabi had recently joined the BJP, after merging her party Social Democratic Party (SDP) with the saffron party.

"I have worked on the same goals of development for last 12 years, so the BJP was a natural choice for me,'' she said.

Andrabi insists she is no 'amateur'. "I have been in politics for years, even in last elections my party fielded 16 candidates,'' she insists.

Andrabi, who many believe "as not a very strong candidate," is leaving no stone unturned. As holding rallies seem very unlikely, she prefers going door to door to persuade people for voting for the Bharatiya Janata Party.

"People in my constituency are over-burdened, I don't think they are in a position to attend rallies. In September, the Jhelum destroyed their homes and livelihoods. Two months later, people are still clearing, the area looks ravaged,'' she told Hindustan Times.

The floods which have fuelled anger against the state administration, serve as her "ammunition." Besides, the new BJP entrant is also using Narendra Modi's strong development plank to motivate voters.

"Two months on, people are still awaiting help. I am promising nothing more than that. They also know that a strong leader like Narendra Modi can only help them in their miseries,'' she says.

Banking on 'Modi magic,' Andrabi says the fact that he chose a woman to challenge Abdullah in his turf has given her confidence. "I am very proud that they have chosen me," she said.

Andrabi, a doctorate in Urdu, is grabbing headlines with another woman candidate Hina Bhat, 35, a dental surgeon, who is BJP's candidate from Amira Kadal taking on sitting MLA and close Abdullah aide and NC's president Kashmir province Nasir Aslam Wani.

The duo are working hard to make the saffron party which till recently was 'considered a political untouchable' acceptable in the Valley.

One of the most vocal BJP candidates, Bhat daughter of a former NC leader Mohammad Shafi Bhat, quit her job at the SKIMS medical college a few years ago to do social work. Confident that her party is 'pro Kashmir' Bhat made headlines when she recently claimed that she would pick up gun in case Article 370 was abrogated.

Andrabi joins the chorus saying abrogation of Article 370 will not even be part of the BJP manifesto. "I can guarantee that abrogation of Article 370 will not be in the manifesto. PM Modi has said that there is need for debate. We can have a debate on anything,'' she said.

"Article 370 is a gift given to the state of Jammu and Kashmir by India. A gift is never taken back,'' Andrabi adds.

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