Farooq Abdullah, Mufti Sayeed square off in J&K

PTI | ByIndo-Asian News Service, Udhampur
May 07, 2004 01:25 PM IST

The two leaders have stepped up their efforts to get voters' support for their respective parties ahead of May 10 poll.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and his predecessor, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, are locked in a bitter contest in electioneering in the ethnically polarised Jammu region.

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Moving away from their main battleground, the Kashmir Valley, the two leaders have stepped up their efforts to get voters' support for their respective parties ahead of Monday's polling in the Udhampur parliamentary constituency.

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Abdullah's son and National Conference president Omar Abdullah contested the election to the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat and Sayeed's daughter, People's Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti, was in the fray in the Anantnag constituency.

The Udhampur constituency is crucial as it sits adjacent to the Kashmir Valley and has a large chunk of voters that is influenced by Kashmir Valley-centric parties like the PDP and the National Conference.

The issues figuring in their campaigns, however, are different.

The diversity of the constituency has made Sayeed and Abdullah talk of different issues at different places because of the geographical, ethnic and religious composition of voters in Udhampur.

The border areas of Hiranagar and Kathua are in the plains and dominated by Hindus, while the hilly areas in Jammu mostly have a Muslim-majority population.

While people on the plains are happy about the ceasefire on the borders and are affected by developments in other parts of the country, the population in the hills is bogged down with the problems of neglect and backwardness.

Sayeed, whose PDP has been in power for 17 months, often attacks the National Conference in his speeches at election rallies, playing up its "failures".

On the other hand, Abdullah has been criticising Sayeed for only harping on the National Conference instead of talking about the achievements of the PDP.

"What will he say? He is a failure and his government is a failure. They play emotional politics and further the agenda of their masters in Delhi. How can he talk of any real issues?" Abdullah said at an election rally.

Abdullah has attacked Sayeed on the key issue of development. All major projects in the Udhampur constituency, ranging from a new railway line to the Baghliar hydroelectric project, were undertaken by the previous National Conference government, Abdullah points out.

"We laid the foundations and, after all, what is started also gets completed. So the credit goes to the people who take the initiatives and not to those who talk of personal glories," he said.

Jammu and Kashmir, India's only Muslim-majority state, elects six members to the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament. Polling has been completed in four constituencies and Ladakh besides Udhampur go to the polls on Monday.

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