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Lok Sabha Elections 2019 : It’s Mehbooba’s fight to survive as Anantnag goes to poll today

The high-profile elections are crucial for the political future of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led by Mehbooba.

lok sabha elections Updated: Apr 23, 2019 08:11 IST
Mir Ehsan
Mir Ehsan
Hindustan Times, Srinagar
Lok Sabha Elections 2019,Mehbooba’s fight to survive,Anantnag
Mehbooba Mufti (PTI)

Former J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti is among the 18 candidates, whose fate will be decided by 5.3 lakh voters in the Anantnag district who will go out to vote on Tuesday.

The high-profile elections are crucial for the political future of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led by Mehbooba.

Since the formation of the party in 1999, four districts of south Kashmir became party’s bastion with its candidates winning 12 seats in 2008 and 11 in 2014 there. Now, the PDP is fighting for survival and Mehbooba’s candidature from the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat is the party’s hope of victory, which could give a boost to the otherwise demoralised cadres of the PDP.

In 2014, Mehbooba had won the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat by defeating NC candidate Mehboob Beg by more than 65,000 votes. Later in the assembly elections, the polling in south Kashmir was about 39% and the PDP got the highest vote share in south Kashmir. When Mehbooba became J&K chief minister in 2016 after her father’s demise, she got elected from her father’s assembly seat and vacated her Lok Sabha seat with an intention to field her younger brother Tasaduq Mufti from there.

However, after the killing of Burhan Wani the same year, the Valley got engulfed in agitation and south Kashmir remained the worst-hit with dozens of local youths joining militancy. Even when parliament elections for Srinagar were held in 2017, the ECI had to defer polls for south Kashmir due to security reasons and for three years, the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat remained vacant.

As per the PDP youth president, Waheed-ur-Rehman Parra, these were tough times for the party. “But people would still elect Mehbooba Mufti because they know her very well,” he said.

However, it won’t be easy for Mehbooba to get elected from the seat this time. The supporters and workers of the former J&K chief minister are still angry with the PDP’s decision to form an alliance with the BJP and the killings of civilians post-Burhan Wani agitation.

Due to security reasons, the PDP president could not hold roadshows in various parts of south Kashmir and the thin public presence at the party rallies at some places rang alarm bells for the party strategists. “If Mehbooba loses from south Kashmir, it is going to be a big dent on our party. Our main focus is to mobilise our cadres on the voting day,” said a senior party leader close to Mehbooba.

A triangular contest

A triangular contest is expected between Mehbooba Mufti, NC candidate Justice Hasnain Masoodi (retd) and Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress president Ghulam Ahmad Mir. The polling percentage on the voting day would play an important role in the victory of any of these candidates.

Mir is an old politician and former minister, who knows how to fight elections and low turnout could help him. “People will vote for us because all other parties have been exposed as they allied with the BJP in the past. Congress is the only party which is going to highlight problems of the people of south Kashmir,” Mir said, who also campaigned extensively in south Kashmir.

The NC has picked a retired justice as its candidate and is hoping that resentment against the PDP could help the party, which has won from this seat more than six times in the past. Omar Abdullah and Farooq Abdullah have also campaigned for the former justice.

The BJP has also fielded its only Muslim legislator from Kashmir, Sofi Yousuf, from the constituency. However, the party has no strong base in south Kashmir.

Tight security

Officials say at least 40, 000 security force personnel will be deployed to secure the 714 polling stations in Anantnag district. The army will be involved in area domination and patrolling of the sensitive localities.

In the second phase, Kulgam district will go to poll on April 29, and in third, Shopian and Pulwama will vote on May 6.

First Published: Apr 23, 2019 08:11 IST

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