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Finally, poll campaigning picks up in Kashmir

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Mehbooba, Sajad hold rallies in north; Shah Faesal launches party; Omar ‘enters danger zone’ south

Mehbooba in Kupwara/Photo Kashmir Images

Srinagar, Mar 17: It was a Sunday of political rallies with almost all the major political parties in Kashmir initiating their campaigns for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.

While the major political parties in the Valley — the National Conference, Peoples Development Party and Peoples Conference held rallies today, the new entrant, former IAS officer Shah Faesal launched his Jammu and Kashmir People’s Movement and made its debut rally in Srinagar.

Interestingly, National Conference (NC) vice-president and former chief minister Omar Abdullah chose PDP stronghold of south Kashmir to kick-start the mass contact programme as the party organised a rally at Khanabal in Anantnag district of the militancy-infested region.

Although the party has not announced its candidates for the Lok Sabha polls for Anantnag, Abdullah starting the campaign from south Kashmir shows that the party is focused on gaining the lost ground in what had turned into a stronghold for the arch-rival PDP over the past two decades.

    Sajad in Handwara/Photo Kashmir Images

“The parliamentary board of the party will meet tomorrow (Monday) and the candidates for Lok Sabha elections will be announced only after that,” provincial president of the party Nasir Aslam Wani said.

PDP president and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, also began the campaign trail – but from north Kashmir’s Kupwara district even as her other party leaders stayed put in south Kashmir, holding a party convention in Kulgam district.

Addressing a gathering of PDP workers at TRC Kupwara to campaign for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, the PDP president said her party workers were the “real Mujahideen” as they brought relief to the people.

“You don’t hold stone or guns in your hands and yet you provided relief to the people like no one could in past seventy years,” she said while addressing her workers.

She also tried to explain her party’s alliance with the BJP after 2014 elections as a compulsion prompted by “betrayal” by her own people.

“I would have not joined hands with BJP if my own members had not betrayed me and I think everyone is aware about that,” she said.

Omar in Anantnag /Photo Kashmir Images

The PDP campaign strategy seems to be a mirror image of the NC strategy as the party has focused on areas where they have lost ground over the years.

Sajad Gani Lone’s People’s Conference has made major inroads in the past five years, particularly in the Kupwara district while the PDP managed to win only one of the four seats in Kulgam district in the 2014 Assembly elections, in spite of a strong wave in its favour at that time.

Shah Faesal’s People’s Movement was formally launched at a public rally in the heart of the city here on Sunday as he promised corruption-free politics that will also help in bridging the gap between the Centre and the state.

While Faesal, soon after his resignation from government service in January this year had expressed his desire to contest the Lok Sabha elections, a party leader Sunday said they will take a final decision on contesting the parliamentary elections in the next few days.

  Shah Faesal in Srinagar/ Photo Kashmir Images

The gatherings at the rallies of all three parties might not have been proportional to the nature of the elections but the numbers were respectable enough, given the general disinterest in the Lok Sabha elections in Kashmir over the past three decades.

The electioneering activity is expected to pick up in the coming days as the political parties announce their candidates for the polls and parties like the Congress and the BJP also start their respective campaigns.

Till now, Peoples Conference is the only party that has announced its candidates for all three Valley seats. NC has announced candidates for north and central Kashmir, whileas PDP has announced only one nominee for north.

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