Campaigning ends in Anantnag, marred by killing of 8
Electioneering, marred by killing of eight persons, including two Lashker-e-Toiba (LeT) militants and as many police personnel, ended this evening in this south Kashmir constituency, spread over four districts of Anantnag, Shopian, Kulgam and Pulwama.
Meanwhile, more than 150 persons, mostly youths, allegedly involved in anti-poll campaign, were taken into preventive custody during the past about one week to foil any disruption during polling on April 24.
Campaigning also witnessed stone pelting incidents on political parties' road shows.
However, political parties who organised road shows and rallies, were now seen going door to door, seeking votes for their respective candidates.
Interestingly BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi figures almost in every election campaign meeting of political parties, who hardly talked about development, corruption and other day-to-day issues.
Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad also joined the campaign, urging people to vote for National Conference (NC) candidate Dr Mehboob Beigh.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah reacting to statement of a BJP leader in Bihar that opponents of Mr Modi should go to Pakistan, said he will prefer to go to Pakistan, but will not stop opposing Mr Modi.
However, despite the onset of summer, late snowfall and heavy rains coupled with damaged roads, has kept the people away from poll process.
People could be seen busy in their orchards, which has suffered heavy damages due to recent snowfall and rains.
Political parties, particularly ruling NC and main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) managed to organise election rallies and road shows, attracting their supporters.
The separatist organisation also managed to hold anti-election campaign of some areas in the constituency, appealing people to boycott the process.
Electioneering also marred by violence, claiming eight lives.
On March 13, two state police guards were killed when militants, attacked the house of a ruling NC youth leader at Khrew in Pulwama, which is part of the Anantnag constituency. However, both the militants were killed by security forces.
Later, NC president Dr Farooq Abdullah alleged that PDP was responsible for the attack on youth leader.
However, PDP not only rejected the allegation, but also lodged a complaint with the Chief Election Commission (CEC) demanding action against Dr Abdullah for his remarks.
Later, a PDP sarpanch Mohammd Amin Pandit was kidnapped and killed by gunmen at Gulzarpora, Awantipora, in south Kashmir district of Pulwama on April 17 night.
PDP lodged a police complaint against Dr Abdullah alleging that after he (Dr Abdullah) issued threat to PDP, Pandith was killed.
Last night, a sarpanch and his son and a numberdar were killed at two different places in Tral area of the constituency.
More than a dozen sarpanch and panch have already resigned after the killing of a sarpanch at Awantipora on April 17.
However, the authorities, taking no chance, have made unprecedented arrangements to provide secure atmosphere to voters to exercise their franchise in the constituency, where 1615 polling stations have been set up.
Out of these, 690 polling stations are Hyper sensitive, 659 sensitive while just 266, mostly in remote areas, are normal.
There are 12.72 lakh voters, including 601688 women in the constituency, where NC has again fielded Dr Mehboob Beigh, who won the seat in 2009.
Congress candidate Mohammad Shafi Qureshi was the first to represent the constituency in Parliament when he was elected unopposed in 1967. However, before that, members were being nominated to Lok Sabha from the state.
Mr Qureshi later shifted to National Conference (NC) of Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad and represented the constituency again in 1971.
This was the time when NC headed by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was staying away from election process, demanding plebscite after his arrest in 1953, when he was dislodged as Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir by then Congress government headed by Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru.
However, he again switched over to Congress and made a hattrick victory from the constituency in 1977.
But after Indira-Sheikh accord in 1975, NC candidates Ghulam Rasool Kochak, Begum Akbar Jehan, wife of Sheikh Abdullah and P L Handoo represented the constituency in 1980, 1984 and 1989, respectively.
However, in 1996 when leaders of mainstream parties, including NC and Congress were away from the valley due to militancy, an independent candidate Mohammad Maqbool Dar won from the seat and later joined the ruling party and become Minister of State.
In 1998, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed as Congress candidate got elected, while Ali Mohammad Naik of NC represented the seat in 1999.
Though there are 12 candidates in the fray, the main contest will be between Dr Beigh and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, who represented the constituency in 2004.
However, a number of other parties, including BJP have fielded Mushtaq Ahmad Malik, National Panther Party (NPP) Syed Abid Ahmad Shah and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Dr Tariq Maqbool Dar.
Though BJP has very less presence in the constituency, but the name of party's prime ministerial candidate Narendera Modi figures almost in every election campaign meeting.
The ruling National Conference (NC) alleged that main opposition PDP was acting as a BJP agent in Kashmir like Gujarat cabinet minister Amit Shah in Uttar Pradesh (UP).
However, PDP countered the allegation and asked, "why Omar Abdullah, who was a junior minister in the Atal Behari Vajpayee NDA government, did not resign after the killing of thousands of Muslims in Gujarat riots?"
Despite threat perception, the BJP candidate also held election meeting under heavy security arrangements, though the attendance remained low as compared to NC and PDP.
So far, no senior BJP leader from Jammu or New Delhi have addressed election rally in favour of the party candidate.
However, to reach out to voters in the Valley, BJP has published advertisements with a photograph of Mr Modi in local newspapers, highlighting the party's priorities for the development of Muslims in Kashmir.
(Posted on 22-04-2014)