SRINAGAR: The BJP is campaigning for its ally and Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti in her first and major electoral battle for Anantnag Assembly constituency bypoll scheduled on June 22.
57-year-old Mehbooba is contesting the bypoll from Anantnag constituency in South Kashmir. The seat fell vacant after the death of her father and former CM Mufti Mohammad Sayeed on January 7 this year.
The bypoll will be held on June 22.
Through Anantnag constituency bypoll, Mehbooba is seeking entry to J&K Assembly. After taking over as first woman Chief Minister of the State on April 4 this year, it is necessary for her to get elected to J&K legislature within a span of six months.
This is the first and major electoral battle for Mehbooba after the death of her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who was patron of PDP.
Mehbooba, who is presently MP from South Kashmir, has never lost Assembly elections in the State. She has contested thrice in Assembly elections and won on all the occasions. However, she has lost a parliamentary election at the hands of NC leader Omar Abdullah.
Besides Mehbooba, National Conference (NC’s) Iftikhar Hussain Misgar and Congress party’s Hilal Ahmad Shah, five other candidates are also in the fray.
The main contest, however, will be between Mehboba and NC and Congress candidates.
In 2014 assembly elections, Mufti Sayeed had defeated his nearest rival of Congress Hilal Ahmad Shah by about 6000 votes.
Anantnag was considered to be stronghold of PDP but the way less number of people attended Mufti Sayeed’s funeral after his death on January 7 this year, the seat is not an easy cake-walk for Mehbooba.
According to political analysts due to PDP’s alliance with BJP, a section of supporters of Mehbooba has felt disillusioned with her and may vote against her as they are not happy with her for aligning with the saffron party against whom she had sought votes in 2014 Assembly polls.
Mehbooba has held several roadside election meetings in the Anantnag constituency to garner support for herself. She has sought votes in the name of her late father to accomplish his “incomplete mission”.
Senior Congress leader and Bollywood actor Raj Bhabbar too visited many areas of Anantnag and campaigned in favour of Congress candidate Hilal Shah. While addressing his election rallies, he told people that Mehbooba has already “betrayed” them once and vote for her party would be vote for RSS, whose ideology killed Mahatama Gandhi and demolished Babri Masjid.
NC’s president Farooq Abdullah and working president Omar Abdullah have also sought votes for party candidate.
Anticipating tough fight, Mehbooba’s ally BJP has also jumped into the field to support her and ensure their ally’s victory.
Firebrand J&K BJP leader and MLA Ravindra Raina told Express that BJP is campaigning for Mehbooba.
“Yes, BJP is campaigning for her. All cadres of BJP are campaigning for her to ensure her victory,” he said.
Raina said the state BJP president Sat Pal Sharma had gone to Anantnag to campaign for Mehbooba. “He will go there and again campaign for her”.
“Our party has also directed our district presidents in the Valley to seek votes for Mehbooba and ensure her victory in the bypoll comfortably,” he said.
Raina said BJP has a good hold in Anantnag constituency. “We had got good votes in Assembly and parliamentary elections from Anantnag and we are telling our supporters to vote for Mehbooba”.
He said the Kashmiri Pandits voters of the Anantnag constituency, who are living outside State have been approached by the party. “We have told them to vote for Mehbooba”.
Separatists have called for a boycott of the Anantnag polls. The militant group Hizbul Mujahideen has issued posters in some parts of the constituency to call for poll boycott. The militant group warned people of dire consequences if they don’t stay away from the polls.
It remains to be seen what will be the turnout.