SRINAGAR: With both ruling parties in J&K - National Conference and Congress - battling strong anti-incumbency factor, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, ministers, and former ministers are on sticky wickets in their strongholds in the 4th phase of elections for State Assembly on December 14.
All the eight constituencies in Srinagar, eight in South Kashmir’s Anantnag and Shopian districts and two in Jammu will go to polls in 4th phase. High profile candidates including Omar Abdullah, three of his cabinet ministers, Speaker, ex ministers are busy in garnering support amid expectations that the voter turnout in all the 18 seats may be on higher side as compared to previous election.
Omar is contesting from Sonawar seat in Srinagar. He also contested from Beerwah constituency in central Kashmir’s Budgam district, which went to polls in third phase on December 9.
Sonawar was considered safe seat for NC but owing to anti-incumbency factor and flood factor, it can no longer be considered a cake wake for Omar.
Sonawar, Indira Nagar, Shivpora, Batwara, Pandrethan, Athwajan, Panthachowk and other areas in the constituency were badly affected by the floods and there is anger among people against Omar government for not doing enough for their rehabilitation.
Although BJP and Congress have also fielded candidates from the seat but the main battle is between Omar and PDP’s Mohammad Ashraf Mir, who had lost to NC’s Mohammad Yasin Yasin in bye-elections for the constituency in 2009 by a margin of just 50 votes. Mir is riding on PDP-wave and relying on urban vote bank while Omar is banking on his traditional rural votebank.
Ali Mohammad Sagar, NC Minister and party’s first general secretary outside Abdullah dynasty, is also facing tough competition from Khanyar seat in downtown Srinagar.
Sagar had won last three elections from the seat, which was considered stronghold of NC. However, the entry of former trade-union leader Khurshid Aalam into PDP and his fielding from the constituency has made the contest interesting. Although Sagar has done developmental works in his constituency but he too is battling anti-incumbency and Aalam may try to cash on it.
The PDP candidate enjoys some support in the area as he belongs to Khanyar. Besides, he also enjoys support of government employees for being their past union leader.
Although balance is still tilted a bit towards Sagar but Aalam has the capability to spring surprise.
Nasir Aslam Wani, NC’s provincial president and former MoS Home and Tourism is also on sticky wicket on his home turf in Amira-Kadal constituency.
Like so many other party ministers and leaders, he too is battling anti-incumbency factor and lack of development in his constituency. He boasts of setting up of eight community centres in the constituency but people accuse him of being “not accessible” to them. He too is facing anger from flood-affected people, who have accused him of rescuing his near and dear ones and leaving them high and dry.
Nasir is facing direct fight from PDP’s Altaf Bukhari, a businessman. Although BJP’s Hina Bhat is also contesting from the seat, but the main fight is between Nasir and Bukhari.
Bukhari, who is making electoral debut, has emerged as a strong candidate and according to political observers, he may wrest the seat from Nasir.
The Congress ministers G A Mir and Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed, are also facing tough contest in their home turfs in Dooru and Kokernag Assembly seats in South Kashmir respectively.
Both had won the seats in 2002 and 2008 polls but are now confronting strong anti-incumbency. Both are tainted with Mir being one of the accused in 2005 sex scandal in the State and jailed before being exonerated by the court while Peerzada is also facing some cases including one of helping his foster son clear 10th class examination by resorting to unfair means.
Mir is facing stiff competition from Syed Farooq Andrabi of PDP and NC’s Farooq Ahmad Ganai and Peerzada from Abdul Rahim Rather (PDP) and Gh Nabi Bhat (NC). With both Dooru and Kokernag constituencies witnessing heavy turnout, the surprises can be expected from either of the two seats or both.
Surjit Singh Slathia, former NC minister and MLA from Vijaypur, Jammu is not only battling anti-incumbency factor but also BJP-wave.
According to polls pundits, it would be tough for him to retain the seat in view of pro-BJP wave in the entire Jammu province.