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Mehbooba, Mian, Zafar submit nomination papers for crucial South Kashmir contest

Jahangeer Ganaie


Anantnag, Apr 18: Former Chief Minister and People’s Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti, National Conference (NC) candidate Mian Altaf and Apni Party candidate Zaffar Manhas submitted their nomination papers for the Anantnag-Rajouri parliamentary seats on Thursday.

As per the news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO), Mehbooba accompanied by hundreds of party workers and leaders filed her nomination papers after paying homage at her father’s grave in Bijbehara.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, Mufti said the upcoming election transcends basic amenities like road, water, and electricity. Instead, she termed it as a crucial battle for the preservation of Kashmiri identity, land and resources, particularly in the wake of the abrogation of Article 370.

Mehbooba criticised the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for attempting to silence Kashmiri voices and alleged their agenda of subjugating Kashmiris into servitude to exploit resources and erode identity.

NC candidate Mian Altaf was accompanied by party’s vice president Omar Abdullah and senior Congress leader G A Mir. Omar expressed hope for Mian’s victory. He thanked Mir who had come from Delhi to express support.

“The National Conference has been the worst victim of violence as this party has lost more than 4,000 workers,” Abdullah said, adding, “Everybody knows very well where the gun culture came from.”

When asked about the BJP not fielding its candidate yet, Omar said, “There is some time left and who knows they might do it.”

Mir on the occasion said this election is a direct contest between the INDIA block and NDA. “The people of J&K are politically mature,” he said, adding, “The people of Jammu are very angry with the BJP and we see both seats going to Congress.”

Mir said the people will vote for the guarantees of the INDIA block and Rahul Gandhi, not to those of Prime Minister Narendra Modi which he said will “expire” on June 04 – the day the results will be announced.

Meanwhile, Apni Party candidate Zaffar Manhas, along with a few independent candidates, also submitted their nomination papers, adding further diversity to the electoral fray.

The Anantnag-Rajouri parliamentary seat, comprising 18 assembly segments, is poised for a riveting contest in the upcoming elections. With prominent contenders from the National Conference (NC), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and the Apni Party vying for victory, the electoral dynamics promise an intriguing triangular battle.

BJP is yet to announce its candidate, while the Democratic Progressive Azad Party (DPAP), which had earlier announced its chairman Ghulam Nabi Azad as the candidate, has now fielded advocate Saleem Parray as the party candidate from this seat.

Mian Altaf, representing the National Conference, commands significant influence among the Gujjar community, while Zaffar Manhas of the Apni Party is expected to garner support from the Pahari community. Meanwhile, Mehbooba Mufti, leading the PDP, seeks to capitalise on her party’s foothold in certain assembly segments like Bijbehara, Devsar, Dooru, and Zainapora.

Political analysts believe that the non-residency status of both Mian and Manhas might tilt the scales slightly in favour of the PDP. However, the NC’s formidable lineup of former MLAs and MLCs, including Dr Bashir Ahmad Veeri, Altaf Kaloo and others, is poised to mobilise support in their respective constituencies, bolstering Mian’s prospects.

The Congress’s influence, particularly in segments like Dooru, could prove advantageous for the NC, as the party extends its support and campaign efforts. The Apni Party, led by leaders like Rafi Ahmed Mir and Ab Raheem Rather, faces a significant test as they endeavour to consolidate support in their newly aligned constituencies.

The potential entry of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) into the fray could alter the landscape, especially considering the substantial Pahari vote bloc energised by recent government initiatives. However, the BJP’s candidate announcement is pending, leaving room for speculation regarding their impact on the electoral calculus.

The Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha seat boasts a formidable electorate of 1,925,450 votes, with significant representation from South Kashmir and Rajouri-Poonch districts.

With the nomination process underway, scrutiny of nomination papers is scheduled for April 20, 2024, and the deadline for withdrawal of candidature is April 22, 2024. If contested, polling is set to take place on May 7, 2024, from 07:00 am to 06:00 pm.


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