Stage set for parliamentary bypolls in Jammu & Kashmir

Srinagar: As the Lok Sabha bypolls in the two Parliamentary constitutencies in Jammu & Kashmir are fast approaching, the election atmosphere in both the constituencies is yet to pick up given the recent escalation in violence and related incidents especially civilian killings on the encounter sites and rise in stone-pelting incidents. No political party has so far held any major election rally though small functions have been held within their office premises.

While the opposition National Conference president Farooq Abdullah locks horns with the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Nazir Ahmad Khan in Srinagar Parliamentary constituency whcih goes to polls on Arpil 9, Congress state chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir is pitched against PDP’s Tassaduq Hussain Mufti, a cinematographer-turned-politician and brother of Chief Minister Mehbooba Muftifor Anantnag parliamentary constitutency in south Kashmir that goes to polls on April 12. A total of nine candidates are contesting the Lok Sabha bypolls for Srinagar Parliamentary constituency while seven are trying their luck for Anantnag Parliamentary constituency.

Abdullah is the joint candidate of National Conference and Congress as per the seat-sharing agreement between the two political parties. According to the agreement, Abdullah would contest from Srinagar parliamentary seat and Congress state chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir would contest from Anantnag parliamentary seat. Srinagar Parliamentary constituency comprises of 15 Assembly segments whereas Anantnag Parliamentary constituency comprises of 16 Assembly segments.

After filing his nomination papers, Abdullah while addressing a gathering of workers of both parties (National Conference and Congress) here at the party headquarter said that the upcoming election was going to be tough. He was accompanied by his son and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, Congress state president Ghulam Ahmad Mirand Congress’s senior leader Tariq Hamid Karra. The byelection to Srinagar constituency was necessitated after Karra resigned from Lok Sabha and ruling PDP in September last year. Karra later joined Congress.

The stalwart of National Conference Abdullah represented Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency twice (first in 1980 and then in 2009) but lost the 2014 Lok Sabha polls to Karra, the then PDP candidate. The National Conference president has been quoted as saying, “The fire of communalism and polarization that is being fanned and spread across country needs to be stopped before it engulfs our values and robs us of our rights, sense of dignity and special constitutional status.”He added that the country belongs to all faiths and Jammu & Kashmir cannot survive without friendship between India and Pakistan.

The contest for Anantnag Parliamentary constituency is expected to be tough between ruling PDP candidate Tassaduq Hussain Mufti and Congress state chief G A Mir. The bypoll in the constituency was necessitated after Tassaduq Hussain Mufti’s sister Mehbooba Mufti resigned from the Parliament to become the Chief Minister of the state last year. Tassaduq Hussain Mufti, the only son of the late chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed (who passed away last year while in office), is fighting his maiden battle against the Congress state chief and political heavyweight Ghulam Ahmad Mir. Flanked by senior party leaders, Muzaffar Hussain Baig, Mohammad Sartaj Madni, Abdur Rehman Veeri, Abdul Haq Khan and others, Tassaduq Hussain Mufti, while speaking to media, said that it was too early to predict anything. “What I can say is I am ready for the contest and the real challenge for me will start once the elections are over.”

A cinematographer by profession, Tassaduq Hussain Mufti’s primary interest lies in environment, ecology and preservation of the cultural heritage of Kashmir. He’s best known for his outstanding cinematography in Bollywood movies like ‘Omkara’ and ‘Kaminey’. Tassaduq Hussain left Kashmir in 1989 as a teenager and graduated from the American Film Institute. He is married to Radhika Kapur, an interior designer, and joined the party on the death anniversary of his father and former chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.

Addressing the election meetings at Shangus and Khanabal areas in Anantnag district, Ghulam Ahmad Miraccused the coalition partners (PDP and BJP) of pursuing “hidden communal agenda” and urged the people to defeat the “fascist forces” in the upcoming bypolls. Mir claimed that attempts were being made to “divide people to secure votes on the part of PDP” (March 25). He further accused PDP of “betraying and back-stabbing” people in 2014 by aligning with BJP.

Amidst the situation in Valley, people apprehend that there would be low turnouts in the bypolls. The Election Commission has declared all polling stations for the upcoming bypolls sensitive and hypersensitive.

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