Anantnag Lok Sabha seat virtually in PDP’s pocket borough (Election Special)

Anantnag, March 15 (IANS) With 12 of the 16 assembly segments of south Kashmir’s Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency in its kitty, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is believed have an edge over the state’s ruling National Conference (NC).

But then the NC rank and file argue the PDP had the same number of assembly segments when the NC’s Mehboob Beg defeated the PDP’s Pir Hussain in the 2009 general elections.
The NC has again fielded Beg and ranged against him is PDP president Mehbooba Mufti whose ancestral home is in Bijbehara, one of the 16 assembly segments. She had previously represented the constituency in the 14th Lok Sabha (2004-09).
Since the first time the residents of Jammu and Kashmir voted in the general elections in 1967, the NC and the Congress have represented Anantnag five times each and once each by the Janata Dal and the PDP. (The Election Commission of India’s jurisdiction was extended to the state in 1958 and its residents first voted in what was the fourth Lok Sabha election in 1967.)
However, no elections were held in Jammu and Kashmir for the 10th Lok Sabha (1991-96) because of separatist violence and fear.
The constituency’s 16 assembly segments are spread over Anantnag, Shopian, Kulgam and Pulwama districts.
Pulwama district has four segments – Tral, Pampore, Rajpura and Pulwama – represented in the 87-member assembly by the PDP.
Anantnag has six assembly segments – Anantnag, Shangus, Doru, Kokernag, Bijbehara and Pahalgam. Of these, Kokernag and Doru are represented by the Congress and the remaining four by the PDP.
Shopian has two assembly segments – Wachi and Shopian – both represented by the PDP. Mehbooba Mufti is the PDP legislator from Wachi.
Kulgam has four segments – Noorabad, Kulgam, Devsar and Hom Shalibugh. While the CPI-M state general secretary Yusuf Tarigama represents Kulgam, the NC’s Sakina Itoo, the social welfare minister, is the legislator from Noorabad. Devsar and Hom Shallibugh are represented by the PDP.
Given this scenario, the Congress and the NC are jointly fighting the PDP in Anantnag.
And since Mehbooba Mufti is the arch rival of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, the ruling alliance is determined to give its best shot to support incumbent Mehboob Beg.
Elections in Kashmir have never been accurately predicted by anybody after the death of the NC founder, the late Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, whose public support and popularity were miles ahead of his rivals.
Sheikh Abdullah’s (1905-1982) era – he was also known as Sher-e-Kashmir – is over and so is the period of foregone victories and defeats in Kashmir’s elections.
While the BJP and some other political parties have also decided to field candidates from Anantnag, the real fight here is only between the PDP and the NC. Nearly 1.3 million voters would decide their fate on April 24.
(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at [email protected])