Omar Abdullah leads NC’s campaign


It’s a departure from the traditional stronghold in Srinagar for the NC Vice-President. Omar says his fight is not against an individual but is against the BJP….reports Asian Lite News

For weeks National Conference (NC) leader and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has been extensively campaigning in areas near the Line of Control in Baramulla Lok Sabha constituency in North Kashmir from where he is contesting this time.

It’s a departure from the traditional stronghold in Srinagar for the NC Vice-President. Omar says his fight is not against an individual but is against the BJP.

“The BJP doesn’t have candidates in this election, so anybody who is contesting against the National Conference and the INDIA bloc is benefitting the BJP. There are only three official INDIA bloc candidates in this election from the Valley: Mian Altaf Ahmad from South Kashmir, Aga Ruhullah Mehdi from Central Kashmir, and me from North Kashmir,” he said.

Ruhullah Mehdi has been nominated by the NC to contest from the Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency. Omar has said that he won’t contest for the Assembly until Jammu and Kashmir’s status remains that of a Union Territory.

The Baramulla Lok Sabha seat, with its 18 Assembly constituencies, is witnessing a closely contested battle. The party also relies on Shia support in areas like Budgam, Beerwah and Bandipora to bolster its chances of victory.

Delimitation in 2019 reshaped the electoral landscape, expanding the constituency to include Shia-dominated areas. “Statehood is not an agenda for us, we are taking that as a given regardless of which government is in power at the Centre after June 4 statehood whether before Assembly election or after, we are taking that for granted, bit as far as what was done to us on August 5, 2019, constitutionally in terms of our status and what that has meant for us, It is going to be a long struggle, hopefully, if not today, tomorrow we will have a government at the Centre that is made up of friends that see eye-to-eye with us on this crucial issue.”

But while the National Conference aims to consolidate its position, challenges lie ahead in meeting the expectations of the people and delivering on political promises.

“Omar Abdullah is a tall leader and had been the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir in the past, people have a lot of expectations from him, we want him to win the elections and do work for people in this area that lack health facilities and are economically backward,” an NC supporter in Kupwara said.

As the poll battle in Jammu and Kashmir continues to evolve, all eyes remain on the Lok Sabha election results for the Union Territory, which could also determine the future of its political trajectory.

Interesting triangular electoral contest in Baramulla  

The electoral battle has become both interesting and intriguing in Jammu and Kashmir’s Baramulla Lok Sabha constituency where the contest is triangular, with large crowds in rallies of each contestant defying a sense of winner and loser.

Former Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah of the National Conference (NC), Sajad Gani Lone of the People’s Conference (PC) and Sheikh Abdul Rashid, alias Engineer Rashid of the Awami Ittehad Party (AIP) are locked in a triangular contest, although Fayaz Ahmad Mir of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is also in the fray.

The entry of former MLA, Engineer Rasheed, who is in Tihar Jail since 2019, has added fire to the election campaign in Baramulla.

The NC and PC are slugging it out with each other over acrimony of the past. While PC is blaming NC of having converted J&K into a family fiefdom, the NC is accusing PC of being the visible extension of the BJP in Kashmir.

In sharp contrast to politics and politicking between the NC and PC, the son of incarcerated Engineer Rasheed is spearheading a fiery campaign and asking people to vote for the AIP so that his father can be released from prison.

Significantly, the youth are lending support to the son’s campaign for release of Engineer Rasheed. Interestingly, for the voters of this constituency and intriguingly for his rivals in the election, Engineer Rasheed’s campaign does not speak of employment, development, tourism, healthcare, education, infrastructure or any developmental issue.

“Vote for our party to get my father released whom we haven’t met for the last 5 years. To break the lock of my father’s prison, use your vote”, this emotional appeal seems to have gone down well with the voters in Baramulla constituency.

The old parents of Engineer Rasheed also joined a poll rally of the AIP, walking barefoot among the people. This is sitting well with the voters since no electoral promises are made and hence there is no danger of such promises being broken if the incarcerated former MLA gets elected to Parliament.

Interestingly, Democratic Progressive Azad Party (DPAP) headed by former Chief Minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad has announced its support to AIP.

Sensing the fast spreading sympathy for a person in prison, both NC and the PC have started campaigning aggressively in Baramulla constituency. Omar Abdullah has even sought the release of Engineer Rasheed to buttress the feelings of his opponent’s supporters.

The NC undoubtedly has cadre-based presence in Baramulla constituency and despite the sympathy wave being seen in favour of Engineer Rasheed, one cannot overlook the fact that the voting segments of this constituency are much beyond the line of influence of AIP.

There are voting segments in Baramulla, Kupwara, Bandipora and Budgam Districts where the NC is well-entrenched and can get enough support to counterbalance the sympathy vote that Engineer Rasheed is likely to get.

In addition to this, Sajad Gani also belongs to Handwara town of Kupwara District and his late father, Abdul Gani Lone remained a respected and popular politician of the area.

Sajad has been working hard along with his colleague, Imran Raza Ansari, the senior Shia Muslim leader known to wield considerable influence among his community. The main electoral plank of the PC has been to oppose the NC for the alleged 1987 rigging which Sajad says gave birth to the over 30-year-long armed violence in J&K.

Sajad also blames the NC leader, Omar Abdullah of having chosen to visit the remote areas of the constituency first time primarily to seek votes. The PC spurns the NC’s charge of being close to the BJP by saying that Omar was first the commerce minister and then the deputy foreign minister in the government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee and he has no right to blame Sajad for being close to the BJP.

J&K Apni Party headed by Syed Altaf Bukhari is supporting Sajad Gani Lone in the constituency and the party has not fielded any candidate in Baramulla.

If one goes by the large crowds attending the election meetings and rallies of the NC, PC and the AIP, then any one of them could be a winner in Baramulla constituency. But, the great magic of India’s democracy is that the voter weighs options a hundred times before s/he presses the button on the EVM. How many of the crowds attending the rallies of the 3 rivals in this constituency would vote for those they went to hear during the poll rallies will decide the winners and losers in this constituency.

There are 17,32,459 voters including 8,73,171 male, 8,59,255 female and 33 third gender voters in the constituency. The EC has set up 2,103 polling stations including 244 urban and 1,859 rural polling stations. Areas like Gurez, Tangdhar, Keran, Karnah and Uri falling in this constituency are close to the Line of Control (LoC).

Campaigning ends at 6 PM on Saturday and voting will start at 7 AM on Monday in Baramulla Lok Sabha seat.

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