Omar ventured into unexplored constituency, Mehbooba fell far behind

Srinagar: The defeat of two former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti and the victory of the incarcerated former MLA Engineer Rashid are the two major takeaways of the Lok Sabha elections in J&K.

Omar Abdullah had gone into an unexplored constituency so far as his family background and political strength are concerned.

Baramulla is a Lok Sabha constituency in Kashmir, where nobody from the Sheikh dynasty has ever fought in a Lok Sabha election.

Omar’s grandfather and founder of the National Conference (NC) Late Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, his grandmother Begum Akbar Jahan and his father Farooq Abdullah have always fought all their elections from the Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency and they fought their state assembly elections always from central Kashmir.

Given this background, Omar Abdullah choosing to fight elections from the north Kashmir Baramulla seat was a political risk although Omar did not initially believe that the incarcerated former MLA, Engineer Rashid of Awami Itihad Party (AIP) would throw his hat into the electoral ring.

For Omar Abdullah fighting the elections against Sajad Gani Lone of the People’s Conference (PC) was considered a safer bet by the NC.

Sajad Gani Lone was supported by the J& K Apni Party and both the PC and the Apni Party were believed to be closer to the BJP. The fact that the BJP had unofficially announced support for PC and the Apni Party was used to the hilt by the NC by calling these two parties proxies of the BJP.

Sympathy vote for Engineer Rashid and the widely public participative poll campaign carried out by Engineer Rashid’s son has finally sealed the fate of Omar Abdullah in Baramulla.

Interestingly, while the NC and the PC made electoral promises in their campaigns, the entire campaign of Engineer Rashid was based on the family’s appeal to vote for his release. The people have voted for the incarcerated Engineer Rashid overlooking completely the promises and the high profile campaigns run by the NC and the PC.

In Srinagar, the NC had fielded Syed Ruhullah Mehdi, a Shia Muslim belonging to central Budgam district. Srinagar, Ganderbal and Kangan formed the electoral segments of this Lok Sabha constituency.

Traditionally, all three voting segments of Srinagar, Ganderbal and Kangan have been strongholds of the NC.

The inclusion of Pulwama district in the Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency had given some hope to the PDP candidate Waheed ur Rehman Parra who belongs to Pulwama district.

In the final reckoning, Parra polled good number of votes from the Pulwama district, but those votes could not match the NC support in the three segments of Srinagar, Ganderbal and Kangan.

 

Ruhullah comfortably won the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat as was widely expected. The fact that the eight assembly constituencies of Srinagar district voted in large numbers for the first time since separatist violence started in J&K, is believed to have sealed the fate of Waheed Parra of the PDP.

The Apni Party candidate, Ashraf Mir was not in the race from the very beginning since the Apni Party was created just five years back and could not be expected to upset well-entrenched parties like the NC and the PDP.

The victory of Mian Altaf Ahmad of the NC with a margin of more than 2.5 lakh votes has not come as a big surprise to the people in general and the voters of the Anantnag-Rajouri constituency in particular.

Mian Altaf Ahmad is a highly revered Gujjar/Bakarwal leader and the inclusion of Poonch and Rajouri districts to this constituency gave Mian Altaf an edge over Mehbooba Mufti of the PDP whose political influence could not match the religio-political standing of the Mian.

Gujjars/Bakarwals form a large portion of voters in the Poonch and Rajouri districts and they voted in large numbers in favour of Mian Altaf Ahmad.

A good number of Gujjar voters are also present in the Pahalgam, Kulgam and Kokernag voting segments of the Anantnag-Rajouri constituency.

This gave Mian Altaf Ahmad an edge which could not be matched by his rivals. Thus while Mehbooba Mufti finished second, Zafar Iqbal Manhas of J&K Apni Party finished a distant third.

BJP has retained both Jammu and Kathua-Udhampur Lok Sabha seats with both Jugal Kishore Sharma and Jitendra Singh winning these two seats respectively for the third consecutive term.

Jammu has always been a stronghold of the BJP and before that of the Jana Sangh. Thus Sharma’s victory in this predominantly Hindu majority constituency was on the expected lines.

Kathua-Udhampur was a relatively tougher challenge for the BJP candidate, Jitendra Singh as it has voting segments of Banihal, Doda, Kishtwar and partly Poonch district where Muslims form a large chunk of the voters.

Choudhary Lal Singh of the Congress had campaigned feverishly against Jitendra Singh, but the joining of the BJP campaign by Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh appears to have worked well for the BJP in the Kathua-Udhampur constituency.

Former senior Congress leader, Ghulam Nabi Azad, who formed the Democratic Progressive Azad Party (DPAP) who had fielded candidates in Jammu, Kathua-Udhampur, Anantnag-Rajouri and Srinagar Lok Sabha seats has completely failed to catch the attention of the voters.

This is the reason for the DPAP candidates to finish at the bottom of the electoral table with insignificant independents in these four constituencies.

 

 

 

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