SRI NAGAR: With both the ruling parties in J&K -- the National Conference and the Congress -- battling strong anti-incumbency factor, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, ministers, and former ministers are on sticky wickets in their strongholds in the fourth phase of elections for state Assembly on Sunday.
All the eight constituencies in Srinagar, eight in South Kashmir’s Anantnag and Shopian districts, and two in Jammu will go to polls in the fourth phase.
High-profile candidates, including Omar, three of his Cabinet ministers, Speaker and ex-ministers are all busy garnering support, amid expectations that the voter turnout in all the 18 seats may be on the higher side, as compared to previous elections.
Omar is contesting from Sonawar seat in Srinagar. He had previously contested from Beerwah constituency in Central Kashmir’s Budgam district, which went to polls in the third phase on December 9. Sonawar was considered a safe seat for the NC but, owing to the anti-incumbency 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 the Omar Government for not doing enough for their rehabilitation.
Although the BJP and the Congress have also fielded candidates, the main battle is between Omar and PDP’s Mohammad Ashraf Mir, who had lost to NC’s Mohammad Yasin Yasin in the byelections for the constituency in 2009 by a margin of just 50 votes. Mir is riding on the PDP-wave and relying on urban vote bank, while Omar is banking on his traditional rural votebank.
Ali Mohammad Sagar, NC minister and the 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 the NC.
However, the entry of former trade-union leader Khurshid Aalam into the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and his fielding from the constituency has made the contest interesting.
Although Sagar has done developmental works in his constituency, 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 the government employees, for being their past union leader.