Anti-poll wave grips Geelani bastion

Battle for states: Parties sharpen attack as 2nd phase elections near

Anti-poll wave grips Geelani bastion

This apple-rich town in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district has been witnessing low voter turnout since 1989.

Going by the trend and the prevalent mood here, the people are expected to repeat what they have been doing for several years.

Besides being the hotbed of militancy in the Valley, Sopore is the home town of Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who has been vociferously campaigning for boycott of elections for the last two decades.

Interestingly, Geelani won the 1972, 1977 and 1987 polls as a Jamait-e-Islami candidate from the Sopore constituency which continues to be his citadel even today. Geelani successfully contested elections from this constituency when the National Conference (NC) was the unchallenged ruler in the state.

People here believe that the boycott call given by Geelani and other separatist leaders will evoke a strong response.

“Like previous elections, people will stay away from polls this time as Geelani enjoys tremendous clout. The boycott call will have takers here as Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, who was hanged in the Tihar Jail on February 9, 2013, is from Sopore,” Ghulam Ahmad, a local resident, said.

The BJP is eyeing the volatile Assembly segment as it witnesses less voting percentage. Even ruling NC legislator Ashraf Ganie met Geelani last week and asked him not to insist on a poll boycott call as it could help the BJP bag the Sopore seat.
In the 2008 polls, the constituency witnessed below-15 per cent polling, while in the 2002 polls the voter turnout was a mere 8.09 per cent.

In the recent Lok Sabha polls, the total number of votes polled was 1,071 out of more than 1.05 lakh. Political analysts believe that any candidate fetching 2,500-3,000 votes this time will easily sail through.

However, apart from the influence of separatists, people have genuine grievances against the incumbent MLA Ganie.

“He (Ganie) has nothing to show on the development front except for ignoring and neglecting the people over the last six years. We have not seen him since the last election,” Ishfaq Ahmad, a driver, told Deccan Herald.

“Whoever won the election after 1996 has ignored Sopore. We know our issues will never be solved as we are punished for staying away from polls,” Ahmad added.

His views were echoed by a group of college students. “We are not going to be misled by the promises of politicians. We have never voted, and we will never vote,” they vowed.

Political analysts believe that to challenge the separatists in Sopore, which has become more important on the political map of the Valley after 1990 than Ganderbal constituency from where Abdullahs contested the polls till 2008, mainstream parties will have to devise a special strategy.

Known for its pro-Pakistan sentiment, Sopore is mainly divided in two parts, Sopore town and Zainageer. While it is the township which does not vote, almost 30-35 villages in Zainageer belt is the focus of the NC and People’s Democratic Party.

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