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Kashmiri Pandit votes a key factor in crucial Srinagar Lok Sabha seat; yet no party visited them

Amir Tantray comtributed to this report

 

Srinagar, May 11: As the political battleground heats up in Srinagar, one of Jammu and Kashmir’s pivotal constituencies, the upcoming elections witness a fierce triangular contest among the National Conference (NC), People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and the recently emerged Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party (DPAP).

With the absence of a representative from the Abdullah family on this traditional seat, the battle for supremacy has intensified, drawing attention to the decisive role of approximately 52,000 votes of Kashmiri Pandits.

The big question would be: who would Kashmiri Pandits vote in this background?

Ahead of the campaign closure on Saturday, all parties are leaving no stone unturned to sway voters in their favor. Agha Ruhullah, the NC candidate, remains confident in the party’s cadre and the legacy of the Abdullah family, while Waheed Parra of the PDP banks on youth support and disillusionment with both NC and the ruling BJP.

No candidate visited Kashmiri Pandit camps in Jammu for campaigning:

Meanwhile, not a single candidate of any major political parties reached out to the Kashmiri Pandit migrant voters residing in different parts of Jammu.

Even the Jagti Township in the outskirts of Jammu city, where the majority of the migrant population live, had no feeling of elections.

According to the news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO), 15462 Kashmiri Pandit voters are eligible to exercise their franchise in the fourth phase of Parliamentary elections for Srinagar seat. They will be casting their votes in 23 polling stations, including two auxiliary polling stations, established by the Election Commission of India (ECI) in different parts of Jammu.

These polling stations have been established in different areas of Jammu district which include Government College for Women Gandhinagar, Indian Institute of Management canal road, Directorate of School Education at Muthi Jammu, Directorate of Economics and Statistics at Janipur, Migrant school Purkhoo, Agriculture complex Talab Tillo, Government mixed higher secondary school Muthi, Migrant school Nagrota, Government higher secondary school (migrant) Jagti-A, Government Higher Secondary school (migrant) Jagti-B, Anuradha higher secondary school Barnai, Agriculture university complex Udhaiywala, Agriculture university complex Udhaiywala (Auxiliary polling station), J&K board of school education Rehari (Jammu-A), Government middle school (migrant) Jagti, Community Hall Jagti, Government Girls Middle School Check Changerwan Chinore, Government Girls Middle School Check Changerwan Chinore (auxiliary polling station), Government Girls primary school Gangyal, Government primary school Ponichak, J&K board of school education Rehari (Jammu-B), Government High School Sagoon Miran Sahib and Government Higher School Channi.

Having 15462 votes of Kashmiri Pandit migrant population, not a single candidate of any political party, contesting from Srinagar seat, visited any of these areas to seek votes.

Talking to the KNO, National Conference (NC) provincial president Jammu Rattan Lal Gupta said, “Yes, the candidate couldn’t come here for campaigning but our leaders were very much involved in the process and sought votes from the Kashmiri Pandit migrant community.”

Reaching out to the KP voters was not a big task for any political party or their candidates as one can easily reach Jammu through different modes of transport including air transport. As compared to Anantnag-Rajouri Lok sabha seat where candidates have been shuttling and reaching out to the people in hills of Rajouri and Poonch districts, reaching out to KP voters in Jammu was not tough.

“Since many of our leaders left the party we are relying on local leaders and migrant cell who reached out to the KP voters and sought votes,” Tahir Sayeed, PDP spokesman told KNO.

As per the reports received by News Agency-Kashmir News Observer- (KNO)- the DPAP, led by Ghulam Nabi Azad, is striving to transform the contest into a quadrilateral one, leveraging Azad’s past developmental initiatives during his tenure as Chief Minister. Mohammad Ashraf Mir, DPAP’s candidate and former state minister, eyes votes from both his party faithfuls and supporters of the People’s Conference.

Despite Srinagar’s status as the summer capital, the political climate is ablaze, with security forces on high alert and campaign vehicles flooding the districts. While formal campaigning ends by 10 PM, party strategists work late into the night, strategizing to clinch victory.

The central issue of the election revolves around state’s basic identity issue,  development (“Vikas”) and the restoration of statehood. Criticisms against the BJP by NC and PDP for allegedly neglecting Kashmiri interests and identity are countered by promises of statehood restoration and development initiatives. DPAP, on the other hand, pledges to focus on peace-building efforts and developmental projects.

The historic voting patterns in Srinagar, characterized by fluctuating percentages, reflect the region’s complex political dynamics. The turnout in 2019 plummeted to 14.43%. This was indicative of the challenges in voter engagement and participation.

—(KNO)

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