By Abid Bashir
Srinagar: Campaigning, which remained by and large peaceful despite threat perception, came to an end on Tuesday evening in Srinagar Parliamentary constituency, which is going to polls on April 18 in the second phase of Lok Sabha elections.
National Conference (NC) president Dr Farooq Abdullah is seeking re-election from the constituency, which was, barring twice, represented by NC since the party shunned the plebiscite demand and joined the election process after Indira-Sheikh accord in 1977.
Though there are 12 candidates seeking mandate from the constituency spread over Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal districts in central Kashmir, the main contest would be between the NC, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Peoples Conference (PC). The Congress has not fielded any candidate against Dr Abdullah following agreement that NC will not put up any candidate in Jammu region to avoid divide of secular votes.
Meanwhile, the BJP, which has very little base in the constituency, has also put up its candidate. Interestingly, the Shiv Sena has also announced its candidate in the constituency which has no base.
The canvassing witnessed senior leaders of different political parties attracting good crowd during their rallies and public meetings in the constituency, amid unprecedented security arrangements.
Ironically, the development issue has taken a back seat as leaders tried to woo the voters raising the issues of threat to Article 370 and 35 A, ban on civilian traffic twice in a week on Srinagar-Jammu national highway and National Investigation Agency (NIA) raids, besides Public Safety Act (PSA).
The NC, PDP and PC have blamed each other for the prevailing situation in the valley besides erosion of special status of the state. Three former chief ministers — Dr Farooq Abdullah, his son and NC vice president Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti president PDP — staged a dharna on the highway against ban to draw the attention of voters.
Hitting out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for accusing the Abdullahs and Muftis of trying to break India, National Conference (NC) president Farooq Abdullah on Monday said that if his family had wanted to break the country, there would have been no India. “NC fights for the rights of all the people, irrespective of their religion and we will continue to fight. Even if PM Modi tries his best, he will not be able to break India. I want to tell him from here today that you will break, but India will not. You accuse the Abdullahs of trying to break India, if we wanted to break India, there would have been no India then,” Dr Abdullah said, while addressing a rally in S K Park, on Monday here.
Besides, Dr Abdullah, the other candidates in the fray, included Aga Syed Mohsin of PDP, Sheikh Khalid Jehangir of BJP, Abdual Rashid Ganie of National Panthers Party (NPP), Showkat Hussain Khan of Janata Dal (United), Abdul Khaliq Bhat of Shiv Sena (SS), Irfan Raza Ansari of People Conference (PC), Nazir Ahmad Lone of Rashtriya Jankranti Party (RJP), Nazir Ahmad Sofi of Manvadhikar National Party, Independents Bilal Sultan, Sajjad Ahmad Dar and Abdul Rashid Banday.
The BJP has also been able to hold meetings of party workers in the constituency, mostly indoor. By-election in the constituency was held after PDP Member of Parliament (MP) Tariq Hameed Karra resigned from the seat and party after PDP again formed coalition government headed by Mehbooba Mufti with BJP despite his opposition. Karra had defeated Dr Abdullah in 2014 election. However, Dr Abdullah won the bypoll by securing 48,555 votes, while his nearest rival of PDP– Nazir Ahmad Khan got 37,779 votes in the boycott-hit election.