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Altered ground realities, changed responses

Political parties in Kashmir fielding candidates for parliamentary polls as per the new requirements
12:00 AM Apr 03, 2024 IST | ZAHOOR MALIK
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The first response by any political party to the changed ground realities of electoral politics in Jammu and Kashmir came from National Conference (NC) when it announced to field senior leader and former minister Mian Altaf Ahmad as its candidate for Anantnag-Rajouri-Poonch parliamentary (Lok Sabha) constituency.

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The second response came next day from the Democratic Progressive Azad Party (DPAP), which announced that its chairman Ghulam Nabi Azad will contest from the same constituency. The other parties too are likely to respond in their own way in coming time to the changes on the ground.

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The ground realities have changed due to change in electoral map of Jammu and Kashmir through redrawing of the boundaries of the parliamentary constituencies during the delimitation exercise. Similarly, a number of significant changes have been made in respect of assembly constituencies also.

In 2014 parliamentary polls Azad had unsuccessfully contested from Udhampur-Doda constituency. Vast areas of Chenab Valley, which is part of the constituency, are being considered his stronghold.

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However, this time, rather than contesting from there, he preferred the Anantnag-Rajouri-Poonch constituency.

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While making the announcement regarding the candidature of Mian Altaf, NC Vice President Omar Abdullah said, "Due to good track record, work culture, public bonding there is no better candidate available for the party for the constituency." During a media interaction on April 2, NC Vice President said that PDP may not field its candidates against NC and claimed that PDP never said that it will contest the parliamentary polls. However, some PDP leaders on social media reacted strongly to NC Vice President's statement and told him not to talk on behalf of their party.

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With NC sticking to its stand and not leaving the Anantnag-Rajouri-Poonch seat to PDP, and PDP too showing intentions till now to contest, it reflects the real fate of People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) and India National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (I.N.D.I.A) bloc in Jammu and Kashmir in future. The symbolic presence may be there but not the spirit, political observers believe.

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Who finally wins the seat will be known on the result day but problems have begun for the PDP and other parties in the constituency with the candidature of Mian Altaf and Azad. BJP leaders have been saying that their party will contest the seat and indications are that its J&K unit head Ravinder Raina may be fielded.

But there are reports also that BJP may field some other candidate from Rajouri or Poonch or may support Azad in the constituency instead of fielding its candidate.

According to political analysts Mian Altaf, a prominent Gujjar leader also, is being respected across the political spectrum despite political differences with rival parties' leaders. He is known for keeping a low profile at whatever position he is, and doing his job silently.

Mian Altaf said he was not waiting to contest the parliamentary polls. " I had no wish to contest but somethings are destined to happen and those do happen. Despite hailing from Ganderbal district, I have also a bonding or connectivity with the people in all areas of Anantnag-Rajouri-Poonch constituency," he said.

The NC leader stated that contesting the polls is not something new for him and that he had successfully contested assembly election five times in the past. Leaving his stronghold of Kangan assembly constituency to safeguard his party's interests, is a big leap in his political career.

Surely, it will not be a cakewalk for him in presence of strong candidates from other parties, and on the result day it will finally become clear who will emerge victorious in the prestigious constituency.

There were reports that PDP President Mehbooba Mufti is also intending to contest from this constituency. She has indirectly mentioned about it recently when she said, " Our rival parties have got some indications that I will contest from this constituency and they all are gearing up to defeat me."

There are also reports that PDP workers from Shopian and Pulwama, which are now part of Srinagar parliamentary constituency, are requesting her to contest from Srinagar. It is to be seen whether she contests, and if yes, then from where. Some time back she had stated that she would not contest assembly polls as long as Jammu and Kashmir is a union territory.

A similar statement was also made by Omar Abdullah. It is not only Mehbooba and Omar intending to get elected to parliament but other senior leaders too have a similar wish. But who among them would really contest and from where and who finally can win, and that too when the seats are very limited, is to be seen.

Now that Azad has decided to contest from Anantnag-Rajouri-Poonch, it will be interesting to watch whether like minded parties including Apni Party led by Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari will support him or not. In recent past they had talked about forming an electoral alliance but no headway was made.

Last year Omar Abdullah had stated that either his father, NC President Dr Farooq Abdullah, or he himself will contest the Lok Sabha polls.

Some political circles are also interested in the next move of another senior leader and former Deputy Chief Minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig. Recently his wife and chairperson District Development Council Baramulla, Safeena Baig had cautioned BJP against “fielding any paratrooper” to contest in Anantnag or Baramulla parliamentary constituencies. Muzaffar Baig had won the parliamentary polls in 2014 on PDP ticket.

Peoples Conference President Sajad Lone has already announced to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Baramulla.

For a change the parliamentary polls in J&K will generate lot of interest this time not only because of the participation of senior leaders but also because of the change of the ground realities.

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