Parliamentary by-bolls to be held in Kashmir

Srinagar: As the by-polls to two Parliamentary constituencies (Srinagar and Anantnag) in Jammu & Kashmir draw closer, the stage is all set for the electoral battles especially between the two regional parties, National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The seats had fallen vacant after the resignation of respective Members of the Parliament in the two constituencies. While the Anantnag Parliament seat had fallen vacant after PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti took over as the Chief Minister of the state (afer the demise of her father, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed), the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat, on the other hand, fell vacant after the then Member Parliament and senior PDP leader, Tariq Hameed Karra, resigned from both the party and Parliament. Karra later joined Congress.

With the announcement of elections to the two Lok Sabha seats, the Model Code of Conduct has come into force and political parties have pulled up their socks for the big day. To begin with, National Conference and Congress have announced to fight the upcoming by-polls together for the two constituencies and declared their candidates as well. The coalition partners, PDP and BJP have decided to independently contest the by-elections. While National Conference (NC) president Dr. Farooq Abdullah and state Congress chief G A Mir will contest from Srinagar and Anantnag, respectively, Tasaduq Hussain Sayeed, brother of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, would contest on PDP’s ticket from Anantnagand Nazir Ahmad Khan would contest from Srinagar. Khan, a prominent Congress leader, recently joined PDP and Tasaduq Hussain Sayeed returned to Kashmir from Bollywood after the death of his father and joined the party formally on January 7 this year on the first death anniversary of his father.

BJP State General Secretary (Organisation), Ashok Kaul, addressing workers convention at Dooru in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district(March 14)said that the party has decided to contest the elections independently by fielding its party candidates and the party’s National Vice President and Jammu & Kashmir in-charge, Avinash Rai Khanna in Jammu (March 17) said that the party high command in New Delhi would take a final call on fielding candidates for the by-polls. The counting of votes for both constituencies would take place on April 15.

The Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency is the most prestigious among the six parliamentary constituencies in the state with almost 12 lakh voters spread over 15 Assembly constituencies in the three districts of Srinagar, Ganderbal and Budgam whereas the Anantnag Parliamentary constituency in south Kashmir, considered a PDP bastion, comprises of 16 Assembly segments with around 11.76 lakh voters spread over four districts, viz., Kulgam, Pulwama, Shopian and Anantnag.

Mainstream political parties face a challenge to carry out political activities in the region in the run-up to the upcoming by-polls to Anantnag Parliamentary seat, said National Conference working president Omar Abdullah addressing a joint press conference with State Congress chief, G A Mir (March 14). He asked the Election Commission to ensure a safe and conducive atmosphere for the by-polls to the two Lok Sabha seats in Kashmir. On the other hand, Congress leader and former Member of Parliament from Srinagar Parliamentary constituency, Tariq Hameed Karra(March 16) reiterated that he choose not to fight Parliament by-polls despite being offered to contest, as that would not only be unethical but a mockery of his resignation to seek mandate for the same forum (Parliament) that has failed to address the grievances of the people in Kashmir. Pertinently, Karra had successfully contested the 2014 Parliament elections against NC stalwart Dr. Abdullah.

Meanwhile, the joint separatist leadership, including Hurriyat (G) chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and JKLF chief Mohammad Yasin Malik, has called for a shutdown in the areas going to polls on April 9 and 12. The trio, in a statement here, asked people to boycott the upcoming by-polls saying it provides New Delhi an opportunity to mislead the world community (March 16). They added that in the presence of one million armed forces personnel, the “election drama has lost relevance and credibility.”

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