SRI NAGAR: A multi-cornered contest is likely in the politically sensitive Baramulla-Kupwara Lok Sabha seat in north Kashmir.The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Peoples Conference (PC) of separatist-turned-mainstream politician Sajjad Gani Lone have already announced their candidates for the Baramulla seat. While the PDP has nominated former employees union leader Abdul Qayoom Wani, PC has given ticket to former inspector general of police, Raja Aijaz Ali. Ali had unsuccessfully contested Assembly polls from Uri in 2014 on PDP ticket.
The National Conference has not announced its candidate for the seat yet. However, it is likely to field senior leader and former Assembly speaker Mohammad Akbar Lone.The NC and the Congress are engaged in talks over a pre-poll alliance and in case the two parties join hands, the Congress may leave three seats for the NC in the Valley.
Former IAS officer Shah Faesal, who quit his civil services job a few months ago, is also likely to contest from Baramulla. Faesal, who hails from Kupwara, is expected to form his own political party in the next few days.
The Baramulla Lok Sabha seat comprises 15 Assembly segments comprising three north Kashmir districts of Baramulla, Kupwara and Bandipora. The constituency has traditionally been a NC stronghold. Of the 11 Lok sabha polls held since 1967, the party has won seven times, Congress thrice and the PDP once.Surprisingly, hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani had also contested the parliamentary elections from Baramulla when he was in mainstream politics.
Geelani had contested in 1971 and 1977 as an independent candidate and was the runner-up on both occasions. In 1971, he lost to Congress candidate Syed Ahmed Aga while in 1977 he lost to NC’s Abdul Ahad.PDP patron Muzaffar Hussain Baig, who is the sitting MP, had won the seat in fourth attempt in 2014 defeating his NC rival Sharif-ud-Din Shariq. He had contested from the seat in 1980, 1998 and 1999 and was defeated by the NC candidates on all three occasions.
With an anti-PDP wave prevailing in the Valley following the party’s alliance with the BJP after 2014 Assembly polls, it would be tough for the PDP candidate to repeat the 2014 performance. The NC is likely to benefit, though Faesal may spring a surprise.