SRINAGAR: With the bypolls for two parliamentary seats in Kashmir to be held next months, it would be tough task for the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to retain both the Lok Sabha seats.
The bypolls to Srinagar-Budgam and Anantnag-Pulwama Lok Sabha seats are being held on April 9 and April 12 respectively.
The elections are being held at a time when there is anger among people against the Mehbooba government for its mishandling of situation during the unrest last year triggered by killing of 21-year-old Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in an encounter with security forces on July 8, 2016.
The ruling PDP has given mandate to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s cinematographer brother Tassaduq Mufti from Anantnag seat and Nazir Khan from Srinagar seat. PDP’s coalition partner in the State, BJP, after initially expressing its desire to contest both the seats is unlikely to field its candidates now after intervention of party high command.
The opposition parties National Conference and Congress have joined hands and will be contesting a seat each. NC’s president Farooq Abdullah will contest from Srinagar and State Congress chief G A Mir will fight from Anantnag seat.
According to political analysts, due to anti-incumbency factor, PDP’s joining hands with BJP and civilian killings and injuries during unrest in Valley last year, the ruling party may find it difficult to retain both the seats.
The party had won all the three parliamentary seats in 2014 general elections. However, during unrest in Valley last year, PDP’s senior leader Tariq Hamid Karra resigned from the party and as MP from Srinagar seat to protest against mishandling of situation by the government. The Anantnag seat fell vacant after Mehbooba became CM of the State and was elected to the State Assembly.
South Kashmir, which comprises four districts of Shopian, Pulwama, Anantnag and Kulgam and has 15 Assembly segments, was considered stronghold of the PDP. But it no longer can be said now.
South Kashmir was the epicenter of last year’s unrest and most of the civilian killings and injuries at the hands of security personnel during unrest took place in the region. People in South Kashmir have been staging protests during anti-militancy operations of security forces to pave way for militants to escape.
According to political analysts, it would be tough challenge for Mehbooba’s brother to win the seat for the party as he faces joint challenge from NC and Congress and anger of people against the party.
A young political analyst Aadil Ahmed, however, said PDP may be bailed out by poll boycott called by the separatists.
“If the turn-out turns out to be low due to separatist poll boycott call, then it will be advantage PDP as workers of opposition parties may prefer to stay away,” he said.
In Srinagar seat, the fight is between NC’s president Farooq Abdullah and Nazir Khan, who recently rejoined PDP after defecting from Congress.
Like South Kashmir, there is also anger among the people in Central Kashmir against the PDP for aligning with the saffron party.
There is also anger against the PDP government for its handling of situation during unrest last year during which 92 civilians were killed and over 13000 injured with 8000 of them receiving pellet injuries.
Besides, there is also resentment against PDP-BJP government for failure to rehabilitate people affected by 2014 floods and lack of developmental activities in Central Kashmir.
The NC-Congress combine may be having an edge on the seat because it will have support base of Karra, who had won 2014 parliamentary elections from the seat by defeating Abdullah.
Srinagar has traditionally been stronghold of NC and it was for the second time since 1977 that the party lost parliamentary elections in Srinagar in 2014 polls.
“The bypolls would define and measure the strength of people in resisting the onslaught of BJP and the RSS in J&K. It is vital to defeat RSS and its local affiliates who have always harboured an ambition to subvert the State’s political rights and special status”, NC-Congress candidate from Srinagar LS seat Farooq Abdullah said while addressing party delegates at party headquarters today.