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So the suspense ended

Anantnag- Rajouri LS constituency poll date rescheduled
12:00 AM May 01, 2024 IST | ZAHOOR MALIK
so the suspense ended

While campaigning continues in all the three Lok Sabha (LS) constituencies in Kashmir, all eyes were on Election Commission of India (ECI) again. The suspense revolved around whether the commission will hold the polling in Anantnag-Rajouri constituency as per schedule on May 7 or reschedules the poll date on the request of some political parties, candidates and individuals.


The suspense finally ended on the evening of April 30 when the ECI revised the poll date and announced that the polling will be held now on May 25 in the constituency instead of May 7.


On expected lines National Conference (NC), PDP and Congress criticised the ECI decision. While Apni Party, People Conference, BJP, and Democratic Progressive Azad Party (DPAP) hailed it describing it as a step in right direction. Because of the decision the focus of political parties’ campaigning will now shift more towards Srinagar and Baramulla constituencies. However, the parties will continue campaigning in the Anantnag-Rajouri constituency as well.


The incessant rains for last several days and subsequent emerging weather related situation had slowed down to some extent the campaigning in various areas. Despite heavy rains senior leaders including Dr Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti, Omar Abdullah, Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari, and Sajad Gani Lone remained active. So remained the active the contesting candidates Mian Altaf Ahmad, Aga Rohullah, Waheed-u-Rehman Parra, Mohammad Ashraf Mir, Zaffar Iqbal Manhas, Fayaz Ahmad Mir and others.


They held roadshows, rallies and other election related meetings. The heavy rains and subsequent flash floods, water-logging, landslides and closure of roads had affected the normal life in several areas particularly in Kupwara and Handwara on April 29. The rising water level in rivers, tributaries and other water bodies was cause of concern.


However, stopping of rain during the intervening night of April 29 and 30 brought the much needed respite. This led to receding of water level in water bodies. On April 30, Omar Abdullah, Sajad Lone and Fayaz Mir visited the flood affected areas of Handwara and Kupwara to show solidarity with the affected people. Omar temporarily halted his campaigning.


Now, with the improvement in weather conditions the campaigning is expected to gain further momentum in coming days particularly in Srinagar and Baramulla constituencies.


The parties who were advocating rescheduling of poll date in Anantnag-Rajouri constituency were referring to the closure of Mughal Road, fresh snowfall in upper reaches of Poonch and Rajouri and difficulties in campaigning and polling due to hostile weather conditions. Those favouring polling as per schedule had stated that the campaigning and polling could have been held even under present weather related conditions.

Amid the arguments and counter arguments the election commission of India finally took the decision on the matter. ECI was approached by BJP, Apni Party, People Conference and some candidates demanding rescheduling of the poll date. Subsequently, the election commission sought a detailed report from J&K chief secretary Atal Dulloo and Chief Electoral Officer P K Pole. Both the senior officers submitted their reports. And ECI announced the decision.

Earlier, the NC and PDP had strongly reacted to some political parties approaching to ECI for rescheduling of polling date. Both the parties had written separate letters to ECI urging it not to postpone the elections. National Conference Vice President Omar Abdullah convened a press conference in Srinagar appealing the ECI to hold polls as per schedule. He said that not all political parties have approached the ECI for deferring of polls.

The NC leader had appealed that the view of other parties too must be sought by ECI before taking any decision. “ BJP and People’ Conference who are not contesting in Anantnag-Rajouri constituency too have approached the election commission for deferring of polls,” he said. Omar claimed that since NC candidate has a significant edge, the rival parties wanted the polls to get postponed. He said similar tactics were adopted in 2017 by-election in Anantnag parliamentary constituency during the PDP- BJP coalition government.

“At that time the candidate of the establishment, brother of the then chief minister, was losing so the elections were cancelled and never held,” he said. According to him keeping the Mughal Road open during this time is not a big problem for the administration. Even if the road gets closed, it reopens immediately and besides other alternative roads are also available to reach Rajouri and Poonch, he added.

PDP President , Mehbooba Mufti, who is also a candidate in the constituency, claimed that it was a plan by rival parties to stop her from getting elected to parliament.” The rival parties do not want me to get elected and are using all these tactics,” she said. After addressing an election rally in Anantnag district on April 30, she had announced that she was leaving for Jammu to reach Rajouri and Poonch for campaigning.

Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari, President Apni Party, had strongly criticised NC and PDP for insisting polls on schedule when the weather conditions do not permit it.” What is wrong if the polling date is rescheduled. The Mughal Road keeps on getting closed. The candidates are facing difficulties in campaigning.

All the people in the upper reaches and snow bound areas of Rajouri and Poonch will not be able to vote if polling is held on May 7. They will get deprived of their voting right. They too have a right to vote for the candidate of their choice. It is better to postpone the polls and hold those when weather conditions are better and all people are able to vote,” he kept on saying till the ECI finally announced the revision in poll date.

Apni Party candidate Zaffar Iqbal Manhas too had strongly demanded postponing of polls. “ I have not been able to campaign properly. Unlike the 70 year old traditional political party which has strong party cadres , Apni Party is a new party. We too need level playing field. We should be able to reach to people and campaign. Weather conditions right now are such that campaigning in all areas of Rajouri and Poonch is difficult. Better sense must prevail and poll date re- scheduled,” he had said.

DPAP Chairman Ghulam Nabi Azad too had demanded rescheduling of the poll date.

So had J&K BJP President Ravinder Raina. He stated that heavy snowfall has occurred in the Rajouri and Poonch upper reaches and Mughal Road is closed. “ The polling should be postponed and held at a proper date. That way there will be no difficulty in campaigning and polling,” he told media persons in Srinagar a few days back.

Raina added that BJP unit of J&K was very keen to field candidates in all the three constituencies in Kashmir particularly in Anantnag-Rajouri constituency. “ We had made all preparations in this direction. But our central leadership decided not to field any candidate and support our like minded parties in Kashmir. We are following the directive of our central leadership,” he said.

This is not for the first time that Anantnag-Rajouri parliamentary constituency was in focus. Earlier, the constituency had attracted a lot of spotlight when it was created during the delimitation.

During the delimitation exercise a vast area of South Kashmir was cut from erstwhile Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency and merged with Srinagar parliamentary constituency. Like wise the Rajouri and Poonch areas were delinked from Jammu constituency and linked with Anantnag to make it Anantnag-Rajouri constituency.

The move generated a debate in the political circles. After the delimitation the contest in the constituency has become more interesting. Mehbooba Mufti, Mian Altaf Ahmad, and Zaffar Iqbal Manhas are in the fray besides other candidates. 

Author is senior editor,

Greater Kashmir