Poll fervour makes a comeback in Srinagar after three decades

The Srinagar LS seat, which is spread over five districts, Srinagar, Budgam, Ganderbal in central Kashmir and Pulwama and Shopian in south Kashmir, will go to polls on May 13.
Image used for representational purpose.
Image used for representational purpose.

SRINAGAR: There is a marked change in the political atmosphere and political scene in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir in this Lok Sabha polls, the first major electoral exercise in J&K after Article 370 abrogation.

After nearly three decades, the bustle for polls has returned in both uptown and downtown areas of Srinagar.

Contesting candidates are openly holding poll rallies and corner meetings in the sensitive downtown areas which, in past, used to be no-go areas for the mainstream leaders. The National Conference, PDP and Apni Party have been holding election campaigns in both the uptown and sensitive downtown areas of Srinagar.

The Srinagar Lok Sabha seat, which is spread over five districts — Srinagar, Budgam, Ganderbal in central Kashmir and Pulwama and Shopian in south Kashmir, will go to polls on May 13.

A total of 24 candidates are in the fray for the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat but the main contest is between NC’s Aga Syed Ruhullah Mehdi, PDP’s Waheed-ur-Rehman Para and Apni Party’s Mohammad Ashraf Mir. Unlike the past when poll campaigning used to be a very low key affair, this time the poll fever has gripped the summer capital as well. The parties and the contesting candidates are freely canvassing both in the uptown and volatile downtown areas to garner public support.

Former J&K Chief Minister and NC vice president Omar Abdullah today addressed a well attended poll rally in Hawal area of downtown Srinagar. The party workers and participants were waving the NC flags. The Hawal is part of volatile downtown Srinagar and many encounters and militancy incidents had taken place in the past in the area.

It is not the only rally addressed by Omar or NC leader in downtown Srinagar in this election.

“We have held a series of poll rallies both in uptown and downtown Srinagar. We held rallies in Habba Kadal, Khanyar and Hawal in downtown and Batwara, Chanapora and many other areas in Srinagar,” NC spokesman Imran Nabi Dar told this newspaper.

“There is great enthusiasm among the people and they are eager to cast their votes. People are not able to vent their anger over Article 370 abrogation and they want to show their anger through their votes,” Imran said. The venue of every poll rally or corner meeting is decorated with buntings and flags of political parties and posters of contesting candidates and their leaders.

“There is no fear among the contesting candidates this time. The candidates are openly canvassing without any public rallies, corner meetings and door to door campaigns. They campaign even during the evening hours,” said PDP secretary Abduled Hameed Kohsheen. “People are welcoming us wholeheartedly. We held poll rallies in Haba Kadal, Zadibal, Chanapora and some other areas of Srinagar,” he said.

Due to boycott politics, Srinagar LS seat had recorded only 15.6% turnout in 2019 polls with Srinagar spread over 8 Assembly seats recording only 7.7% polling. However, both Kosheen and Imran said due to enthusiasm among the people, they are expecting greater participation of people in polls this time. Both say the voter turnout will be higher than previous years.

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The New Indian Express