Mehbooba vs Mir: No cakewalk for a wobbly PDP in Anantnag
Srinagar, Apr 2: In the last three decades, no political party has retained the Anantnag parliamentary seat that is likely to witness a direct contest between the presidents of Peoples Democratic Party and Congress in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.
Spanning over four districts – Anantnag, Kulgam, Pulwama, and Shopian – with 16 assembly segments, the restive Lok Sabha constituency will go to the polls in parts in the third, fourth, and fifth phase.
Former High Court Judge Hasnain Masoodi is the National Conference candidate for the south Kashmir Lok Sabha seat, while Peoples Democratic Party has announced its president and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti to be the party’s candidate.
Hasnain’s debut in electoral politics meant Mehbooba had better chances of winning, however, her prospects dimmed as soon as Congress Sunday announced its party’s state president G A Mir will contest from the south Kashmir constituency.
Mir has a significant vote bank in south Kashmir and has won Dooru assembly segment twice but lost to PDP’s Syed Farooq Andrabi with a narrow margin of less than 200 votes in 2014 assembly polls.
“We are sure of our win. People know what PDP did over these years,” Mir said.
In the last assembly elections, Shangus and Devsar were won by Congress, Pahalgam by National Conference, while PDP won the majority of seats.
Unlike 2014, when south Kashmir was considered PDP’s bastion, the Congress and National Conference too have gained ground over the years even as several PDP leaders have left the party. Allying with right-wing BJP, 2016 unrest, and eventually allowing BJP a space in regional politics to do its experiments (including crackdown against Hurriyat and Jamaat-e-Islami) has put the PDP in a tight spot.
PDP, however, reckons they are confident of Mehbooba’s win. “Mehbooba Ji has done a lot for the state particularly for south Kashmir. We are hopeful that people come out in large numbers and vote for her,” PDP chief spokesperson, Rafi Ahmad Mir said.
Historically, no political party has retained the seat since 1989.
In 1989 parliamentary polls, PL Handoo of the National Conference emerged winner from the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat.
The parliamentary polls were again held in 1991 across India but could not take place in Kashmir due to the volatile situation. This had prompted the Centre to promulgate an ordinance to defer elections for these seats.
In 1996 polls, the Janta Dal candidate Muhammad Maqbool Dar emerged winner from this Lok Sabha constituency. Mufti Muhammad Sayeed won the south Kashmir Parliamentary seat in 1998 on the Congress ticket and the polls recorded around 28 percent voter turnout.
In 1999, the Lok Sabha seat of south Kashmir was won by the National Conference candidate Ali Muhammad Naik. The voter turnout stood at less than 20 percent.
Mehbooba Mufti made her maiden entry in the Parliament in 2004, by defeating her rival National Conference candidate, Mehboob Beg by more than 38,000 votes from Anantnag constituency.
In 2009, Beg came back as the winner. He defeated PDP candidate Peer Mohammad Hussain with a margin of 5,200 votes. Hussain recently joined the National Conference.
Mehbooba won the Lok Sabha seat in 2014 by 65,417 votes. She defeated the then NC candidate Mehboob Beg, who later joined the PDP. The seat fell vacant in June 2016 after Mehbooba resigned, when she won the assembly by-polls. Since then by-polls could not be held due to volatile situation in south Kashmir.