Today: Jun 19, 2024

Anantnag-Rajouri-Poonch LS seat gears for a triangular contest

2 mins read

Poll percentage on this side of Pir Ki Gali besides ethnic divide of Gujjars, Paharis may impact voting pattern

Anantnag: The prestigious south Kashmir Lok Sabha seat is going to polls today with Rajouri and Poonch added to, and some areas of Pulwama, Shopian taken away from it.

The constituency is going to witness a triangular contest between JKNC, JKPDP and JKAP.

Former chief minister and PDP chief, Mehbooba Mufti is contesting on the PDP ticket, a former minister, Mian Altaf is contesting for NC and the Apni Party has fielded Zaffar Iqbal Manhas, a former MLC.

For several years, south Kashmir areas, falling within this constituency, have been, sort of, pro-PDP but post August 05, 2019, PDP disintegrated and several of its leaders quit the party to join other parties.

However, Mufti seems jittered by the defections and she ran a vibrant poll campaign along with her daughter, Iltija Mufti, who struck a chord with voters.

Mufti also campaigned forcefully in Rajouri-Poonch segments where she and her daughter got very good response.

However, whether this ‘good response’ would transform into votes, is to be seen.

In south Kashmir areas, Mufti may be banking on a higher voter turnout that she and her party may believe will go in their favour following NC vice president, Omar Abdullah’s assertion ahead of polls that PDP was not a big player and thus INDI Alliance didn’t support its candidates may have, in fact, increased Mufti’s vote share.

However, NC has a strong vote share in south Kashmir and with the help of Congress and CPI(M) it can eye some more votes.

Besides, NC fielded Mian Altaf from the seat having an eye on ethnic Gujjar voters.

Altaf is the spiritual head of a larger number of Gujjars, mostly in Kangan (which doesn’t fall within the constituency) and Rajouri and Poonch.

NC, therefore is eying Gujjar votes. However, to its discomfort, the Apni Party played the Pahari card.

JKAP fielded Zaffar Manhas, a renowned Pahari activist, who has been advocating Schedule Tribe status for Paharis for decades.

As the BJP government at the centre granted SC status to Paharis in J&K, the community may want to pay back and that is JKAP’s strength.

The two major communities, Gujjars and Paharis, are toeing different lines and none of the two will follow the pattern of others in the voting for the most important phase of these elections.

However, the key to the contest is the poll percentage in south Kashmir. If the poll percentage here goes up like that of north Kashmir, the LS seat may come up with surprises.

After the intense campaigning on the Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency, where candidates got 18 extra days to seek votes from people, after the polling date was postponed by the Election Commission of India (ECI) from May 7 to 25, over 18.30 lakh voters will be eligible to cast their votes during the 6th phase of the general elections, the last phase in J&K.

The constituency comprises 18 Assembly segments, of which 11 fall in three districts of Anantnag, Kulgam and Shopian, and seven segments are from Rajouri and Anantnag districts. The total number of eligible voters is 1830379 and out of which 1094743 are from the Kashmir side whereas 735551 are from Rajouri and Poonch.