NC’s Heavy Weight Rather Facing Toughest Completion of Life from Chrar-e-Sharif Seat in Valley
SRINAGAR: Senior leader of ruling National Conference in J&K and State Finance Minister Abdur Rahim Rather is facing the toughest competition of his life from Chrar-e-Sharif Assembly constituency in central Kashmir that goes to polls in third phase of elections on December 9.
Rather, 59, has been representing the Chrar-e-Sharif constituency for the past three decades and has won last six elections. He is seeking 7th term for the State Assembly from the seat, considered to be NC stronghold till parliamentary elections were held early this year.
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) got a lead of 3085 votes from the Chrar-e-Sharif seat in the parliamentary elections and its candidate for Srinagar-Budgam-Ganderbal parliamentary seat Tariq Hamid Karra defeated former chief minister and NC president Farooq Abdullah in the Lok Sabha elections.
It was the first defeat of Farooq in any elections from the State and came as a rude shock for him and his party, which was largely banking on Rather’s Chrar-e-e-Sharif constituency and another heavy weight Mian Altaf’s Kangan belt. However, people of both these belts ditched Farooq and his NC.
Although nine contestants are in fray for Chrar-e-Sharif seat but the main battle is between Rather and PDP’s Ghulam Nabi Lone.
Chrar-e-Sharif seat has always witnessed a good turnout. In 2008 polls, Chrar-e-Sharif constituency witnessed a turnout of 74.58 percent. Rather had defeated PDP’s Lone by a margin of 6375 votes.
Rather had secured 24,579 votes and his vote share was 48.30 percent of the total polls polled in the constituency. His PDP’s rival Ghulam Nabi Lone had got 18,204 votes and his vote share was 35.78 per cent.
Like other NC candidates, Rather too is battling strong anti-incumbency factor in this election. The anti-incumbency factor was visible in parliamentary polls when NC conceded a lead of 3085 votes to PDP from the segment. NC’s candidate Farooq Abdullah had got 23,785 votes against 26,870 votes secured by PDP’s Tariq Karra.
Political observers opine that the elections would be a litmus test for Rather like his party NC. “It would be the toughest election for him as he is battling strong anti-incumbency factor, lack of development in his constituency and doing nothing concrete for unemployed youth despite being Finance Minister of the State.”
Rather was the architect of flawed recruitment policy in the State, which was scrapped by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah early this year after facing lot of criticism and flak over it.
As per the now terminated recruitment policy, new appointees in government offices were not entitled to full salary for first five years. They, according to the policy, were supposed to get a fixed sum of few thousand rupees for first five years.
He was accused by former NC MP Mehboob Beg of being involved in the recruitment of several people from his constituency in J&K Bank by using the clout he enjoys as the finance minister over the Chairman of J&K Bank, Mushtaq Ahmad.
Political observers said like other NC leaders, Rather is missing Farooq Abdullah in his election campaign. “Farooq was the only charismatic NC leader, who knew what to talk where and how to lure people. He used to attract people in large numbers to his rallies for pep talk through his humour.”
They said Rather may need a miracle to win his 7th term to J&K Assembly.
Chrar-e-Sharif town was gutted in a major fire on May 5, 1995. The fire was caused by the major gunfight between militants and security forces. The 700-year-old shrine of sufi saint Hazrat Sheikh Noor-ud-Din Noorani revered both by Muslims and Hindus, was also gutted in the fire. The township and the shrine were reconstructed.