The PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti and National Conference's Mehboob Beig are making all out efforts to turn the tide in their favour.
The entry of CPI(M) State Secretary M Y Tarigami in the fray in Anantnag has turned the fight for this South Kashmir Parliamentary constituency into a three-cornered one, with PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti and National Conference's Mehboob Beig making all out efforts to turn the tide in their favour.
Billed as a 'litmus test' for the two regional parties, both PDP and NC have high stakes here with the ruling party trying to consolidate the surprise gains it made in South Kashmir in the last assembly elections and the opposition party striving to regain its lost glory in the area.
However, the question doing the rounds here is will Tarigami, whose party is giving outside support to the PDP-led coalition government in the state, be able to pull out a surprise and emerge as the dark horse to become the first Communist leader to enter Parliament from Kashmir.
Although 10 others, including former Union Minister Mohammad Maqbool Dar, are in the fray in the seat which has nearly 10 lakh voters for the May 5 polls, it has turned out to be a fight among Mehbooba, Beig and Tarigami--all sitting MLAs from the area.
Of the 16 assembly segments of the Anantnag-Pulwama Parliamentary constituency, PDP had won 10 and NC, CPI(M) and Congress two each in the last assembly elections. Congress is supporting PDP in this election.
Tarigami, who entered the poll caravan citing non- performance of the Mufti Mohammad Sayeed government, commands considerable following in several pockets of the constituency. While CPI(M) had won two seats in the last assembly polls, its candidates had finished second in two others.
While he got relected from Kulgam, CPI(M) wrested Wachi assembly seat from the NC. The party candidates finished second in Devsar and Homeshalibug. It also has considerable presence in Pahalgam and Noorabad.
Beig, one of the two NC MLAs from South Kashmir, is hoping to cash in on the popularity of his late father Mirza Mohammad Afzal Beigh who was deputy to then Chief Minister Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah to regain some of the lost ground for his party in the area.
On the other hand, Mehbooba Mufti, daughter of Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, is looking to consolidate on the surprise gain it made in 2002 on a massive anti-incumbency wave against the NC.
Although campaigning in the constituency is in full swing, the electioneering is bereft of issues like the other two Parliamentary constituencies in the valley--Baramulla and Srinagar.
NC's campaign, headed by party patron Farooq Abdullah, revolves mostly around the unfulfilled promises of the PDP-led coalition government and continued human rights violations in the state, while the PDP, strengthened by the Congress' support, is pleading for patience from the public for fulfilment of poll promises saying "18 months is too short a period to judge the governemnt's performance."
Tarigami has lambasted both PDP and NC alleging they were perpetrating dynastic rule in the state as the present chiefs of the two parties are children of their former heads. "They are not bothered about the problems faced by the common man. The two parties, by resorting to mudslinging at each other, have lowered the esteem of the elections."
Both NC and PDP are claiming they would sweep all the three constituencies in the valley but honest assessment is that they are on a slippery wicket.
Former Union Minister Dar's participation is not expected to make much of a difference as times have changed since he was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1996--first in seven years under President's rule--on a Janata Dal ticket in an atmosphere where allegations of coercion and rigging were flying thick and fast.
Of the 1049 polling booths in the constituency, only 42 have been designated as normal. While 603 have been categorised as 'hypersensitive', 404 are marked as sensitive in an area infested with militancy.
Expecting largescale violence by militants, security agencies have turned their focus to South Kashmir as only one constituency in the state goes to polls on May 5.