Strife-torn Anantnag set for clash of titans

Direct fight between PDP and Congress; constituency to go to polls in three phases

Ehsan Fazili

Tribune News Service

Srinagar, April 19

In the ongoing Lok Sabha elections in the state, the focus has now shifted to the strife-torn Anantnag seat of south Kashmir, which will go to the polls in the next three phases starting from April 23.

In the Valley, the polling in the first two phases passed off peacefully baring a few incidents of stone-throwing in the Srinagar constituency.

The constituency is set to witness a direct fight between PDP president Mehbooba Mufti and state Congress chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir as the NC and the Congress have fielded their candidates in a “friendly contest” on the Anantnag and Baramulla seats. The NC has fielded Justice Hasnain Masoodi (retd) from Anantnag.

Of the 18 candidates in the fray, eight are from different regional and national-level parties while 10 others are Independents, thus turning it into a direct contest between the PDP and the Congress.

However, the major issues before the candidates and parties fighting these elections are the law and order situation and the increased militant violence over the past nearly three years, which was triggered after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8, 2016. The incident had taken place less than a month after Mehbooba Mufti was elected as the Chief Minister of the state. Burhan’s killing triggered the longest-ever Kashmir unrest in 2016 and its baggage coupled with the PDP’s “unholy alliance” with the BJP worsening the situation in south Kashmir unendingly.

For the PDP it will be a question of survival and “regaining the lost ground” in its bastion, south Kashmir, which has suffered due to militancy, civilian killings and alliance with the BJP. On its part, the PDP focuses on the “need to safeguard the special status of J&K, promising to ensure that these laws stay intact”. The party has been back to its soft separatist politics and targeted the BJP, its former alliance partner.

Meanwhile, the Congress has been targeting the BJP for its “wrong policies, deceit and anti-minority approach and the PDP-BJP alliance that led to civilian killings, blinding of scores of youth in a series of violent incidents and clashes” in south Kashmir. It also blamed the PDP for “loss of innocent lives and damages to properties for the sake of coming to power”. During his election meetings, Mir had attacked the PDP for ensuring “inroads to the BJP in the Kashmir valley” and betraying people after securing votes from them.

“The PDP aligned with the BJP, which has always stood against Article 370 and has been fighting the elections on this sensitive issue since Day One. However, the power-hungry PDP ensured the BJP’s entry into the power corridors of the state, putting Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution of India under threat as the latter is hell-bent on scrapping the law for electoral gains,” Mir had said.

This constituency, which has seen the clash of titans on several occasions during the past elections, has been represented by senior politicians such as two former Union ministers Mohammad Shafi Qureshi and Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, both from the Congress, and NC stalwarts like Begum Akbar Jehan, wife of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah; Ghulam Rasool Kochak and PL Handoo.

EC curtails polling hours 

New Delhi: The Election Commission on Friday curtailed the polling time for the Anantnag constituency by 2 hours. The voting time will now be from 7 am to 4 pm, the EC said. The earlier closing time for the polling was 6 pm. The voting in Anantnag is scheduled for April 23, in Kulgam on April 29 and Shopian and Pulwama on May 6. In a notification issued on Friday and communicated to the Chief Electoral Officer, J&K, the EC said the timing was changed after taking into account reports of the district administration, police, observers and the CEO and all material circumstances, including the law and order situation, in the constituency. TNS

INDEPENDENT NOMINESS

Imtiyaz Ahmad Rather, Ridwana Sanam, Riyaz Ahmad Bhat, Zubair Masoodi, Shamas Khwaja, Ali Mohammad Wani, Ghulam Mohammad Wani, Kyasir Ahmed Shiekh, Manzoor Ahmed Khan and Mirza Sajad Hussain Beigh

CANDIDATES IN FRAY 

  • Mehbooba Mufti (PDP)
  • Ghulam Ahmad Mir (Congress)
  • Hasnain Masoodi (NC)
  • Sofi Yousuf (BJP)
  • Nisar Ahmad Wani (Panthers Party)
  • Choudhary Zaffar Ali (People's Conference)
  • Sanjay Kumar Dhar (Manav Adhikar Party)
  • Surinder Singh (PragatisheelSamajwadi Party-Lohia)
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