, Apr 13: Nearly a year after her bitter split with the BJP, PDP leader and former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s popularity in her traditional family stronghold Anantnag will be on test when the Lok Sabha constituency goes to polls in three phases on April 23, 29 and May 6.
Mufti, who was elected to the Lok Sabha from this constituency in 2014, is being challenged by state Congress chief G.A. Mir and former judge of Jammu and Kashmir High Court Justice Hasnain Masoodi of the National Conference.
Analysts feel that the 59-year-old PDP President has taken a huge political risk by entering the electoral fray herself despite the substantial anger against her in her constituency for aligning with the BJP.
Interestingly, Shams Khwaja of Uttar Pradesh, a non-state subject of Jammu and Kashmir (one who does not have permanent residency certificate of Jammu and Kashmir as per Article 370 of the Constitution), is also contesting the polls from this constituency, possibly marking a first in the state.
Sofi Yusuf of the BJP is also among the 18 candidates in the fray here.
Another first this time is that polling will be held in three phases for the single Lok Sabha constituency of Anantnag in view of heightened militancy in south Kashmir.
The recent major attack in south Kashmir took place on February 14 when a suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden vehicle into a CRPF convoy in Pulwama district, killing over 40 security personnel.
It was because of the heightened militancy in this area that the by-election could not be held till now for the Lok Sabha constituency ever since Mehbooba Mufti resigned from the seat after becoming the Chief Minister of the state following death of her father Mufti Sayeed.
All four districts of Anantnag, Kulgam, Shopian and Pulwama have seen increased militancy since Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burban Wani was killed in a gunfight with the security forces in Kokernag area of Anantnag district in July 2016.
Burhani’s killing unleashed the 2016 unrest in the Kashmir valley in which 98 civilian protesters were killed and over 4,000 others lost their vision partially or permanently due to pellet gunshots fired by the security forces to control unruly mobs.
After Burhan’s killing, scores of local youths reportedly joined the militant ranks. Mehbooba Mufti was the Chief Minister then, heading a coalition government of PDP and BJP. The coalition government collapsed in June last year when the BJP withdrew its support.
The Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency has traditionally been a political stronghold of the PDP and Mehbooba Mufti’s victory or defeat is likely to weigh heavily on the prospects of her party’s performance when Assembly elections are held in the state which is under the President’s Rule currently.
The constituency has 16 Assembly segments of Anantnag, Bijbehara, Kokernag, Shangus, Devsar, Homeshalibugh, Noorabad, Kulgam, Dooru, Shopian, Wachi, Rajpora, Pulwama, Tral, Pahalgam and Pampore.
Of these, the PDP had won in 11, the National Conference and Congress in 2 each and the CPI-M in 1 in the 2014.
Ghulam Ahmad Mir of the Congress has a strong support base in Dooru, Kokernag, Shangus and Devsar voting segments.
The election campaign of all three main contestants — PDP, NC and Congress — is largely focused on the preservation of Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution which guarantee special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
The BJP has declared its commitment to abrogate these articles if voted to power again.
Security forces face a huge challenge to ensure incident-free elections in this constituency.
Unprecedented security arrangements have been planned for the three days the constituency goes to vote.
A total of 13,93,370 voters are eligible to exercise vote in 1,842 polling stations on April 23, April 29 and May 6. (IANS)
Trump offers to mediate between India and Pakistan on Kashmir issue
WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Monday offered to be the “mediator” between India and Pakistan on the Kashmir issue as he met Prime Minister Imran Khan at the White House where the two leaders discussed a host of issues.
India maintains that the Kashmir issue is a bilateral one and no third party has any role in it.
“If I can help, I would love to be a mediator. If I can do anything to help, let me know,” Trump said in response to a question during his meeting with Prime Minister Khan in the Oval Office.
Trump said that he is ready to help, if the two countries ask for it.
“I think they (Indians) would like to see it resolved. I think you (Khan) would like to see it resolved. And if I can help, I would love to be a mediator. It should be….we have two incredible countries that are very, very smart with very smart leadership, (and they) can’t solve a problem like that. But if you would want me to mediate or arbitrate, I would be willing to do that,” Trump said.
“We have a very good relationship with India. I know that your relationship (with India) is strained a little bit, maybe a lot. But we will be talking about India… (it’s) a big part of our conversation today and I think maybe we can help intercede and do whatever we have to do. It’s something that can be brought back together. We will be talking about India and Afghanistan both,” Trump told Khan.
Khan, who was sitting by Trump’s side in the Oval Office of the White House, said that he is ready and welcomed such a move by the US.
“Right now, you would have the prayers of over a billion people if you can mediate (on Kashmir),” Khan told Trump.
Khan was accompanied by Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt Gen Faiz Hameed and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi among others.
Corrupt praying elections to escape ACB: Guv Malik
Says militant remark ‘made in frustration’; calls Omar ‘political juvenile’
Srinagar, Jul 22: Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik Monday said that the political parties in Kashmir want immediate elections to “save” themselves from the ongoing action against corruption.
“Political parties and their leaders want immediate assembly polls to escape from investigations. The ACB is close on their heels. These politicians are involved in misappropriation of funds in various schemes. There will be zero tolerance against corruption,” the Governor said while speaking to media on Monday.
He expressed regret over his remark that militants should stop killing innocent people and target the corrupt, saying it was made in a “fit of anger and frustration”.
On Sunday, Malik stoked controversy during his address at a function in Kargil.
“These boys who have picked up guns are killing their own people, they are killing PSOs (personal security officer) and SPOs (special police officers). Why are you killing them? Kill those who have looted the wealth of Kashmir. Have you killed any of them?” Malik had asked.
Day later, the Governor, however, said that he should not have made the comment as constitutional head of the state, but it did reflect his feelings and he will say the same thing when he is not governor.
“As Governor, I should not have made such a statement but my personal feeling is same what I said. Had I not been Governor, I would have no regret for giving such statement,” Malik told the media.
“What I said was my frustration and anger as I have seen huge corruption in Kashmir for the last one year. Otherwise, I know militants will be ultimately defeated,” the Governor added.
Reacting strongly to the Governor’s comments in Kargil, former chief minister, Omar Abdullah had tweeted: “Save this tweet – after today any mainstream politician or serving/retired bureaucrat killed in J&K has been murdered on the express orders of the Governor of J&K Satya Pal Malik.”
Omar said the governor should check out his own reputation in Delhi before sanctioning unlawful killings.
“This man, ostensibly a responsible man occupying a constitutional position, tells militants to kill politicians perceived to be corrupt. Perhaps the man should find out about his own reputation in Delhi these days before sanctioning unlawful killings & kangaroo courts,” he said.
Reacting to Omar’s criticism, the Governor called him a “political juvenile”.
“He is tweeting on every issue and media carry them. But media does not carry the comments on his statement. 90 percent people abuse him for his statements,” the Governor said.
Malik said he was appointed Governor because of his reputation.
“I did nothing wrong in my 50 year career. People know whether I did anything wrong. Wherever Omar Abdullah is at present is because of his reputation. He is speaking on every issue in a childish way. I had regards for Omar,” he said.
The Governor said families that have ruled Kashmir have accumulated huge wealth.
“Their grandparents were teachers but they have properties across the world. Their three generations have accumulated huge wealth. They have one house in Srinagar, one in Delhi, Dubai, one in London and elsewhere. They are shareholders in big hotels.”
Asked whether two prominent political families, Abdullahs and Muftis were also involved in corruption, he replied: “The Anti-Corruption Bureau is investigating and whosoever is involved in corruption has to face the punishment. One of the former ministers has been grilled. Few more former ministers will also be investigated. We won’t spare anyone irrespective of how powerful they are.”
Power theft costs JK 4000 cr a year
Srinagar, Jul 21: Jammu and Kashmir suffers a huge loss of around 4,000 crore every year due to power theft.
The department is unable to overcome the huge losses despite the fact that they have installed power meters to tackle pilferage.
An official in the Power Development Department (PDD) said that the deficit of Rs 275 crore in 2002-03 grew to Rs 2,976 crore during 2014-15 and to 4,000 crores in 2018.
The economic survey of 2017 blamed the revenue deficit on “high power thefts, illegal uses, unregistered consumers, uncontrolled and unaccounted consumption of power, lesser load agreements, low tariff rates, and poor collection efficiency.”
“We are losing Rs 4000 crore every year on power purchase bill. Last year we purchased power for 6200 crores and we collected only 2200 crores so the total lose we suffered is 4000 crore,” Hashmat Qazi, Chief Engineer PDD told The Kashmir Monitor.
The major reason for losses, he said, is the power theft.
“We lose maximum power due to the illegal usage by the people here. Despite installing meters, people find ways to breach them and use as much electricity as they can,” Qazi noted.
Qazi informed that to overcome the losses, there are many Government of India schemes including ‘Restructured Accelerated Power Development and Reform program’ (R-APDRP) which will upgrade the infrastructure including installation of Aerial Bunched Cable (ABC) which will restrict power theft by hooking.
“This is Rs 1660 crore plan which is being funded by the Government of India and comprises of 30 towns that have more than ten thousand population,” said Qazi.
“Another scheme is Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS) which comprises of 81 small towns, having a population more than four thousand. Apart from these two schemes, there is another scheme Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY) for distribution of electricity in rural areas,” he added.