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PDP’s Mehbooba Mufti, NC’s Mian Altaf & JKAP’s Zafar Manhas file nominations for Anantnag-Rajouri LS seat

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Anantnag: Former chief minister and People’s Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti, National Conference (NC) candidate Mian Altaf Ahmad and Apni Party candidate Zafar Iqbal Manhas submitted their nomination papers for the Anantnag-Rajouri parliamentary seat on Thursday.

Mufti, accompanied by hundreds of party workers and leaders, filed nomination papers after paying a visit to her father’s grave in Bijbehara.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, Mufti said the upcoming election transcends basic amenities like roads, water, and electricity. Instead, she termed it as a crucial battle for the preservation of Kashmiri identity, land and resources, in the wake of the abrogation of Article 370.

She criticised the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for attempting to silence Kashmiri voices and alleged that their agenda is of “subjugating Kashmiris into servitude to exploit resources and erode their identity”.

Mufti also appealed to the people of Jammu and Kashmir to not boycott the upcoming Lok Sabha elections and instead vote for those who could restore dignity of the erstwhile state and its people.

She said the forthcoming polls are not being fought for roads, water or electricity, but for restoration of dignity, “which is being frequently assaulted by New Delhi after August 05, 2019.”

Speaking to reporters in south Kashmir’s Anantnag where she filed nomination papers for the Anantnag-Rajouri Parliamentary seat, Mufti urged the people of Jammu and Kashmir to vote for restoration of their dignity.

“Today’s election is not being contested for roads, electricity or water, but are being fought for restoration of identity, dignity, return power projects and other resources, and rights on land and employment,” she said.

She said the Jammu and Kashmir has been “turned into an open-air jail and people of the region are being made like laborers,” which she said won’t be allowed.

“It is our land and we have the right on our employment opportunities. We won’t allow assault on our identity, dignity and future,” she said.

She appealed to people to not boycott polls this time, and expose the elements trying to sabotage the smooth conduct of voting.

“They tried to make people ready for a boycott in south Kashmir. I want to appeal to the people of Jammu and Kashmir to not boycott this time, and come forward for voting, so that elements behind the curtains should be exposed,” Mufti added.

National Conference leader Mian Altaf Ahmad also filed nomination papers for the Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha seat as the candidate of the opposition INDIA bloc.

Accompanied by NC vice-president Omar Abdullah and Congress general secretary Ghulam Ahmad Mir, Ahmad filed the nomination papers before Deputy Commissioner Anantnag, Syed Fakhruddin, who is the returning officer of the constituency.

Talking to reporters after filing nomination papers, Abdullah said he was hopeful that Ahmad, the influential Gujjar leader from Kangan in central Kashmir, will emerge victorious.

“On behalf of the INDIA bloc, National Conference candidate Mian Altaf Ahmad has submitted his nomination papers to the DC (returning officer). We are hopeful that Mian Sahib will emerge victorious. On behalf of NC president Farooq Abdullah, we are very thankful to G A Mir who came here from Delhi especially for this,” the NC vice president said.

Reacting to Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s statement on destruction caused by gun culture in Jammu and Kashmir, Abdullah said the National Conference has been the worst victim of violence.

“We know very well where the gun culture came from. No party has been a bigger victim of this gun culture than the National Conference. We have lost more than 4,000 senior workers, party office bearers and former legislators,” he added.

On former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad withdrawing from the contest in Anantnag Lok Sabha seat, Abdullah said he knew about it beforehand.

“We knew that he would not contest. He did not contest from his Doda seat, why would he contest from Anantnag. Now his party has fielded a new candidate. How much support they have among the people you will come to know in near future,” he said.

On the BJP not fielding any candidates on the three seats in the valley, Abdullah said, “There are still 24 hours left. Who knows they might just do it!”

Senior Congress leader Mir said he was confident of a sweep for INDIA bloc candidates in Jammu and Kashmir.

“Jammu and Kashmir will not be divided into several parties. It is a direct contest between INDIA bloc and NDA. There is no scope for third, four or fifth parties this time. The people of Jammu and Kashmir are mature enough politically,” Mir told reporters.

Mir expressed confidence that Congress candidates will win both the Lok Sabha seats in Jammu region.

“We can see both the Jammu seats going to Congress because people of Jammu are much angrier with BJP than we had anticipated in Kashmir. They (BJP) have done nothing on the ground. Their central ministers, who were representing the constituency, have not shown their face to the people in the past five years,” he said.

He also said that PDP president Mehbooba Mufti contesting the polls was not a setback for the INDIA bloc.

“It is not a setback. It was understood from the outset that the constituent parties of INDIA bloc will field candidates from seats which they had won respectively in 2019 polls. We know that valley seats were won by NC last time. Common sense says NC will have influence in these seats.

“Efforts were made to accommodate others but it was to be decided between NC and PDP. If this seat had been with Congress, we might have been willing to sacrifice it to accommodate the PDP like we did in many other states. The two parties could not agree on this…therefore, Mian Altaf will be the candidate from the INDIA alliance,” he added.

Mir charged that the BJP has tried to use some religious issue or the other in every election so that it does not have to answer for its governance.

“This is the first election in India in which BJP has not succeeded in diversionary tactics to deviate from the real issues facing the nation. This might be their last ditch effort to give a (saffron) colour but Bharat has decided that 2024 polls will not see a BJP or Modi government. June 4 has been decided as the expiry date of all guarantees that they are giving. People will vote for the guarantees of INDIA bloc and Rahul Gandhi,” he said.

Apni Party candidate Zafar Iqbal Manhas, along with a few independent candidates, also submitted their nomination papers, adding diversity to the electoral battle.

The Anantnag-Rajouri parliamentary seat, comprising 18 Assembly segments, is poised for a riveting contest. With prominent contenders from the National Conference (NC), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and the Apni Party vying for victory, the electoral dynamics promise an interesting battle.

BJP is yet to announce its candidate, while the Democratic Progressive Azad Party (DPAP), which had earlier announced its chairman Ghulam Nabi Azad as the candidate, has now fielded advocate Saleem Parray from this seat.

NC’s Mian Altaf commands significant influence among the Gujjar community, while Zafar Manhas of the Apni Party is expected to garner support from the Pahari community. Meanwhile, Mehbooba Mufti, leading the PDP, seeks to capitalise on her party’s foothold in certain Assembly segments like Bijbehara, Devsar, Dooru, and Zainapora.

Analysts believe that the non-residency status of both Mian and Manhas might tilt the scales slightly in favour of the PDP. However, the NC’s formidable lineup of former MLAs and MLCs, including Dr Bashir Ahmad Veeri, Altaf Kaloo and others, is poised to mobilise support in their respective constituencies, bolstering Mian’s prospects.

The Congress’s influence, particularly in segments like Dooru, could prove advantageous for the NC, as the party extends its support and campaign efforts.

The Apni Party, led by leaders like Rafi Ahmed Mir and Abdul Raheem Rather, faces a significant test as they endeavour to consolidate support in their newly aligned constituencies.

The Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha seat boasts a formidable electorate of 1,925,450, with significant representation from south Kashmir and Rajouri-Poonch districts.

With the nomination process underway, scrutiny of nomination papers is scheduled for April 20, 2024, and the deadline for withdrawal of candidature is April 22, 2024. The polling is set to take place on May 7, 2024, from 07:00 am to 06:00 pm. (With inputs from PTI & KNO)


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