A triangular contest shapes up in Srinagar as voters ask for development and youth empowerment | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

A triangular contest shapes up in Srinagar as voters ask for development and youth empowerment

ByMir Ehsan, Ashiq Hussain
May 10, 2024 09:23 PM IST

Srinagar's Lok Sabha constituency is set for a triangular contest between the National Conference, the Apni Party, and the People’s Democratic Party

After a heated campaign, witnessed in Srinagar for the first time in decades, the Lok Sabha constituency will go to polls in the fourth phase of the general elections on Monday. The constituency will witness a triangular contest between the National Conference (NC), the Apni Party and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

Srinagar, May 07 (ANI): Students take part in a voting awareness campaign in the wake of Lok Sabha polls, at Lal Chowk in Srinagar on Saturday. (ANI Photo) (Imran Nissar) PREMIUM
Srinagar, May 07 (ANI): Students take part in a voting awareness campaign in the wake of Lok Sabha polls, at Lal Chowk in Srinagar on Saturday. (ANI Photo) (Imran Nissar)

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, NC president Farooq Abdullah won from Srinagar, which witnessed a dismal polling figure of 13%. This time, the NC has given the ticket to one of its younger leaders, Aga Ruhullah, a former cabinet minister and Shia cleric.

Ruhullah, who belongs to an influential Shia clan (Aghas) that hails from Budgam, has been a vocal critic of the abrogation of Article 370. The Abdullahs are actively campaigning for Ruhullah, with additional support from the Congress and the Awami National Conference. The constituency is an NC stronghold, with a string of victories going back to 1998, with the only exception in 2014, where PDP candidate, Tariq Hameed Karra won from the seat.

The PDP, this time, is banking on the president of its youth wing, Waheed ur Rehman Parra. The former secretary of the state sports council, Parra is trying to strike a chord with local youths by highlighting his three-year incarceration after he was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in 2020 in two terror cases. Parra’s focus is on the development of power projects and the empowerment of people.

Apni Party (AP), led by J&K’s former education minister, Altaf Bukhari, has fielded former minister, Mohammad Ashraf Mir for the Srinagar seat, backed by the PC. AP – which was established soon after the abrogation of Article 370 when dozens of former legislators left the PDP to form a new political party -- is focused on the restoration of statehood, land rights and generating employment. This election will determine whether the party leadership has managed to win some goodwill.

What are voters in Srinagar thinking

Hinting at the concerns of the electorate in Srinagar, Hilal Ahmad, 45, who works in a private consultancy, said, "Since 2019, people have been under a lot of pressure. In this scenario, the people are rooting for the lesser evil.”

A septuagenarian businessman in Saraf Kadal, who asked not to be named, said: “I have voted once much before the start of militancy and never during the past 45 years. This time I am half-convinced to vote. If I vote, my decision to vote will be based on the changed circumstances. I will vote against the disempowerment of Kashmir.”

Safwat Zarger, who works for a news portal, said Srinagar is mostly a contest between AP and NC. "There is very little ground for PDP. The party’s influence is overwhelming in the four seats in Pulwama and the one seat in Shopian. Ganderbal and Kangan may not vote for the NC. PDP may get good votes from the Kashmiris in the Kangan segment, whereas NC has traditional Gujjar votes," he said. “People want some relief from the tough policies. Compared to the past, this time there will be a good poll percentage,” he added.

However, others are averse to exercising their fundamental right, seeing no good in the current lot of leaders.

Javed Ahmad, 42, a resident of Natipora and father of three school-going children, flatly said that he is not going to vote. “What will be the result of my vote? Nothing. What changes have been brought since Independence? Despite producing so much power, why are our homes still in the dark? Why do our neighbouring states sparkle from the electricity produced here?"

Parties in the fray in Srinagar’s triangular contest

Tanvir Sadiq, the NC chief spokesperson, claimed the party has received an overwhelming response from people. “The locals don't trust proxies and will support our candidates not only in Srinagar but two other seats of Kashmir as well. In J&K, the INDIA bloc will win all seats."

Even though both the NC and the PDP are part of the INDIA bloc, the Congress has thrown its weight behind the former.

Sheikh Ishfaq Jabbar, a former legislator, said that the contest is largely between NC and the AP. “While the PDP and the NC are again indulging in rhetoric, the Apni Party is pursuing developmental policies and their manifesto is based on the realities in J&K. We want peace and developmental activities simultaneously."

The PDP is banking on the personal charisma and goodwill of Parra. "Our candidate is famous among the young and old alike. The rallies and roadshows of our party are testimony that the wave is in our favour and people will vote for our youthful candidate," said PDP leader, Tahir Sayed.

This time, the poll percentage is likely to go up and all three main parties (NC, PDP and Apni Party) are eyeing those votes especially when there is no boycott call against the polling like in previous years.

After fresh delimitation, two districts of south Kashmir were also included in the seat. With over 17,40,015 voters, the constituency includes Srinagar, Ganderbal, Pulwama, Budgam and Shopian districts with 21 assembly segments.

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