BJP’s Anantnag-Rajouri guessing game

The party has not announced its candidate for the seat, which covers five districts of Kashmir and Jammu regions.
BJP’s Anantnag-Rajouri guessing game

SRINAGAR: The BJP is keeping everybody guessing by not announcing its candidate for the high-stake Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha seat in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Apni Party of influential businessman Altaf Bukhari has written to J&K’s Chief Electoral Officer seeking the postponement of polls in the parliamentary seat due to poor road connectivity.

The newly carved Anantnag-Rajouri constituency is stretched up to cover the Kashmir and Jammu region. Voting is due in the seat on May 7.

Speculation is that the BJP may field J&K BJP chief Ravindra Raina from the seat, which covers five districts of Kashmir and Jammu regions.

Of the total 19,25,450 voters of Anantnag-Rajouri LS seat, around 11 lakh votes are in South Kashmir (Anantnag and Kulgam) while twin border districts of Jammu province Rajouri and Poonch districts have over 8 lakh voters.

BJP sources said besides Raina, the party was also considering fielding a serving IAS officer from the Anantnag seat. “However, it is now most unlikely that the IAS officer would be asked to join politics and contest from the LS seat,” they said. Sources said the BJP will take the ground situation into consideration before taking a final call on its candidate.

PDP chief and former CM Mehbooba Mufti, DPAP chief and another former CM Ghulam Nabi Azad, NC’s Gujjar leader Mian Altaf Ahmed and Apni Party’s Zafar Iqbal Manhas will fight from the seat.

The Poonch and Rajouri districts of the seat have sizable tribal population including the Gujjars, Bakerwals and Paharis. The Centre recently announced ST reservation for the Paharis and three other communities. This has led to Pahari leaders assuring the BJP of their community’s support.

The BJP is eyeing the Anantnag seat to make inroads into Muslims-dominated Valley as the party is hopeful of reaping benefits of granting political reservation to STs, including the Paharis and three other communities in the ST list.

With BJP delaying nomination, J&K Apni Party has written to the UT’s Chief Electoral Officer seeking postponement of LS polls in the Anantnag-Rajouri seat after the closure of Mughal Road, which links Kashmir with the border districts of Poonch and Rajouri.

“Due to frequent closure of Mughal Road, political workers and party leaders will face difficulty in commuting. The nomination papers are to be submitted in Anantnag. In such a situation, workers of Rajouri-Poonch will have to face huge difficulties in reaching Anantnag. Due to poor road connectivity, candidates will not be able to reach the people for campaigning,” reads the letter.

Recently, BJP’s Kashmir in charge Tarun Chugh held a meeting with Apni Party president Altaf Bukhari and Peoples Conference chairperson Sajjad Lone in Srinagar at the former’s residence. Lone has announced his candidature from the Baramulla seat and Apni Party has named Ashraf Mir for Srinagar and Zaffar Manhas for Anantnag-Rajouri.

So far, the BJP has not made it clear whether it will contest the polls in Kashmir or support other candidates.

BJP state spokesperson Altaf Thakur said that party would announce its candidates for Srinagar and Anantnag seats soon. He, however, refused to give out any probable names.

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