Akeel Rashid

After smooth polls in Bla and Sgr, pollsters turn to Anantnag LS seat

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… but none wants to bet a penny to predict outcome

Srinagar, Apr 20: It is not just about the people of south Kashmir electing their Member Parliament, the Lok Sabha (LS) election in Anantnag parliamentary constituency will also be a litmus test on recent government policies -- whether or not they produce the “desired results”.

No matter what percentage of electorate chooses to vote, the election if held in a “controlled atmosphere without any violence”, could be considered a marker of “new normalcy” in Kashmir.

The decision to hold fresh elections for Anantnag LS seat – right after Baramulla and Srinagar – was taken in March this year with the Election Commission of India (ECI) announcing a three-phase election for the south Kashmir constituency – a in the electoral history of Jammu and Kashmir.

Read Also: After smooth polls in Bla and Sgr, pollsters turn to Anantnag LS seat

Earlier in 2017, taking cue from unprecedented anger and disillusionment exhibited by the people during LS by-election for Srinagar parliamentary constituency which witnessed the voter turnout of just 7 percent – lowest in 30 years, the ECI had preferred to put the by-election to Anantnag LS seat on hold.

It is worth recalling that around 200 incidents of violence took place in Kashmir when Srinagar LS by-poll on April 09, 2017, which left eight people dead and hundreds others including forces’ personnel injured.

The situational turbulence because of which the ECI could not hold the by-election in south Kashmir have somewhat subsided as the election for Srinagar LS seat this Thursday (April 18, 2019) concluded peacefully. The constituency which had recorded 7 percent voting in 2017 saw voter percentage moving up to 14.8 percent.

Given that elections for Anantnag LS seat are going to be held in three phases amid “unprecedented security arrangements”, on Friday evening, the ECI added another layer to the precautions by revising the poll timings from 7:00 am to 4:00 pm. A clear reduction of two hours as earlier it was from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm.

The timing has been amended “after considering the reports of the State government, district administration and police and taking into account all material circumstances including law and order situation,” reads an official communiqué of ECI.

The kind of rigorous preparation with which the ECI plans to hold these elections has made one thing clear  -- that it is difficult to analyze  and predict as to what will be the situation in south Kashmir on polling days, and thereof the voter mood.

Consisting of 16 Assembly segments and spread over four districts -- Anantnag, Shopian, Kulgam and Pulwama -- the Anantnag LS seat will witness a three-cornered contest between PDP’s Mebooba Mufti, Congress’ Ghulam Ahmad Mir and NC’s Justice (retd.) Hasnain Masoodi.

Mebooba Mufti had bagged 2,00,429 votes in 2014 LS election for Anantnag, which is over 53 percent of the total vote share of the  constituency. However, the current situation may not be like that -- particularly in Pulwama and Shopian which continue to remain on the edge.

Mufti’s promise to revoke ban on Jamaat-e-Islamia if she is voted to power could prove game-changer for her, if this gesture is reciprocated by the Jamaat as this proscribed religo-political party has a substantial presence and influence in south Kashmir.

Jammu and Kashmir Congress chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir has an edge over PDP and NC in Dooru, Shangas and Devsar – however, the trick is to not only get the proverbial horse to watering hole but make it drink as well!

NC candidate Justice (retd.) Hasnain Masoodi will have to bank on the party’s voter base.

However, notwithstanding who wins and who not, the two things to watch would be -- how peaceful are these elections and what percentage of voters come out to vote.

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