PDP, National Conference will clash in Baramulla (Election Special)
The main contest in this Lok Sabha constituency in the northern part of Jammu and Kashmir will be between the ruling National Conference (NC) and the PDP.
NC's Sharif-ud-Din Shariq, who won from here in 2009, is seeking re-election while senior PDP leader and former deputy chief minister Muzaffar Hussain Beigh will be the main challenger. Ironically, Beigh won the assembly election from Baramulla while Shariq was defeated in the Langate assembly constituency by an independent in 2008.
Neither the NC nor the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) can claim a cakewalk in Baramulla.
Sajad Lone of the People's Conference is believed to have a sizeable influence in areas of Kupwara district where his late father, Abdul Gani Lone, wielded influence.
The senior Lone would then give a tough time to NC candidates even when the latter enjoyed an over-arching influence due to the leadership of the late Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah.
Sajad Lone finished third in the 2009 Lok Sabha battle in Baramulla after the PDP's Muhammad Dilawar Mir.
If Sajad Lone chooses to throw his hat into the ring this time, it is likely he might increase the victory chances of the National Conference as the anti-NC vote will get split.
If that happens, Sajad Lone will end up playing the game changer.
The first Lok Sabha election was held here in 1967. The constituency has been represented in the Lok Sabha thrice by the Congress: in 1967, 1971 and 1996.
NC candidates have won from here eight times: 1977, 1980, 1984, 1989, 1998, 1999, 2004 and 2009.
With 1.15 million voters in the three districts of Baramulla, Bandipora and Kupwara, the constituency has 15 assembly segments.
Of the 15, the NC has seven legislators in the 87-member Jammu and Kashmir ssembly.
Five constituencies had elected the PDP. Langate and Gulmarg are represented by independents, one of whom, Ghulam Hassan Mir, the state agriculture minister, is part of the NC-Congress ruling alliance.
The Congress represents only one seat in the state assembly from this Lok Sabha constituency.
Its senior leader and Health Minister Taj Mohiuddin was elected from the Uri assembly constituency along the Pakistan border.
The NC has seven legislators from Baramulla: Karnah, Kupwara, Handwara, Rafiabad, Sopore, Gurez and Sonawari.
Muzaffar Hussain Beigh was the only cabinet minister of the PDP who was re-elected in the 2008 assembly elections. In Baramulla, he is believed to be well entrenched politically.
Beigh's supporters assert that he will win only if there is a good voter turnout because most people, it is said, are sick and tired of the NC government.
The NC rank and file argue their candidate would get a large number of votes in border segments like Karnah, Gurez and Uri where people generally come out in large numbers to vote.
The Baramulla constituency goes to the polls May 7.
(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Posted on 19-03-2014)