Baramulla set for triangular contest

Baramulla set for triangular contest

This north Kashmir parliamentary constituency is all set to witness a triangular contest between the ruling National Conference-Congress combine, opposition PDP and Peoples Conference led by separatist-turned-mainstream politician Sajjad Lone on May 7.

While the alliance has fielded sitting MP Sharif-ud-Din Shariq for the seat, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has put its money on former deputy chief minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig. The PC has this time fielded Gujjar leader and former deputy director of Doordarshan Salam-ud-Din Bujjad. Last time Lone had contested from here but had finished third with 65,000 votes.

With 1.15 million voters the constituency, which comprises of Barmulla, Kupwara and Bandipora districts, is abuzz with political activities and candidates are carrying out public rallies to garner public support.

In the last Lok Sabha elections, Shariq defeated PDP candidate Muhammad Dilawar Mir by a margin of 64,814 votes. The NC has won Barmulla seat in 1977, 1980, 1984, 1989, 1998, 1999, 2004 and 2009.

However, this time neither the NC nor the PDP can claim to be favourites. With 15 candidates in the fray, the vote share of Bujjad may prove to be a decisive factor between the NC and PDP as the PC holds strong footprints in the five assembly constituencies of frontier Kupwara district.

Out of the 15 assembly members, the NC has seven legislators while the PDP has five, the Congress one and two assembly segments are represented by the independent MLAs.

With the ruling alliance facing anti-incumbency wave in the state, Shariq’s performance as MP is casting serious shadows over his candidature.

“We had voted for the NC last time hoping they would solve our day-to-day problems. But unfortunately I don’t know who our MLA and MP are. They never visited us, nor did sanction any amount for development although crores of rupees were sanctioned by the New Delhi for local development through MPLAD funds,” Mushtaq Khan, a shopkeeper in Kupwara town, told Deccan Herald.

With separatists enforced boycott having a major effect in Anantnag and Srinagar constituencies on over all polling percentage, the trend can reverse here. Of the three Lok Sabha constituencies in the Valley, Baramulla has been the most consistent in the terms of voter turnout since 1996.

According to the Election Commission figures, in 1996 around 46.65 per cent of the registered voters had come out in Baramulla constituency. In 2004, more than 35 per cent of the voters cast their ballot. The figure was almost twice of what had been witnessed at Srinagar (18 per cent) and Anantnag (15 per cent).

In 2009 parliamentary election Baramulla saw a turnout of 41.84 per cent. Again, the turnout had been far better than in Srinagar and Anantnag.

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