Tough battle for Srinagar Lok Sabha seat

Last Updated 27 April 2014, 19:17 IST

The politically strategic Srinagar Parliamentary constituency, set to go for polls on April 30 in the fourth phase of elections in Jammu and Kashmir, will witness a direct contest between National Conference (NC) president and Union Minister Farooq Abdullah and opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) urban face Tariq Hameed Karra.

The constituency, spanning three districts of Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal, is as prestigious for NC as Amethi or Rae Bareli is for Congress. In the words of incumbent MP Farooq Abdullah, Srinagar is the jugular vein of his party and family and was “non-negotiable.” Except for a two-year hiatus when Mir Ghulam Muhammad Magami of the Congress won the Lok Sabha polls from Srinagar in 1996 as the NC boycotted the polls, the ruling party has always retained the constituency directly or through proxy since 1971.

However, this time retaining the Srinagar seat won’t be a cake-walk for the NC as the main opposition PDP has made deep inroads in all three districts of Budgam, Srinagar and Ganderbal. The candidates of the Aam Admi Party and a few lesser known independents may also cut vote share of the NC in Budgam and Ganderbal districts giving slight advantage to the PDP. The decision of the Peoples Democratic Front (PDF) MLA Hakim Mohammad Yasin to stay away from polls is a big plus for the PDP. Yasin, who has a large clout in Budgam district, in the last election had supported the NC candidate, which was one of the major reasons for Abdullah’s victory over the PDP candidate.

Of late, the controversies surrounding the NC patriarch may also prove an advantage for the PDP. Just a few months back, Abdullah described Kashmiris as ‘Maha Chor’ (big thieves). The fury that the remark generated made Abdullah to rebut his statement. “I didn’t say it,” he was made to state in his defence with politicians’ typical shield: “I was misquoted.”

In 2009 Lok Sabha polls, Abdullah had polled 147035 votes while PDP’s Moulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari bagged 116793 votes. The constituency has 12 lakh registered voters this time, with Srinagar topping the electoral population with 591977 voters, followed by Budgam with 428799 and Ganderbal with 150976 voters.

The possibility of the separatists enforced boycott and role it usually plays in deciding winners and losers is something to look out for. However, usually the boycott advantage goes to the NC. In 2008 assembly elections, the NC managed to win all the eight assembly constituencies of the district Srinagar, where least number of electorate cast votes.

The PDP is relying on its slogan of change plus the vote bank it has in Budgam district, where it represents two out of five assembly segments. In Ganderbal, senior PDP leader and former forest minister Qazi Muhammad Afzal has a good footing.

The PDP chief spokesman Naeem Akthar believes the victory of Karra would be a trophy for J&K. “Farooq Abdullah is known only for his non-serious chats or a very serious anti-Kashmiri attitude and actions,” Akthar told Deccan Herald.

However, senior National Conference leader and party’s face in Srinagar, Ali Muhammad Sagar says a wrong impression is being created that the NC benefits from the boycott. “People vote for us, which is a bitter reality that the PDP won’t accept,” he said.

(Published 27 April 2014, 19:17 IST)

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