Lackluster poll campaigning witnessed in south Kashmir districts
Pulwama/Shopian: With just days left for Lok Sabha Polls in parts of Anantnag Parliament seat the campaign here has remained a low key affair with political parties avoiding most parts of the Shoipan, Kulgam and Pulwama districts.
The two main districts, Pulwama and Shopian have not witnessed even a single public gathering or a major public convention or rally by political parties so as to garner support from the local populace.
Threats from militants and boycott appeals from other organizations seem to have had their intended effect in Pulwama and Shopian which are yet to witness political activity since the killing of Hizb commander Burhan Muzzafar wani.
Considered as a hotbed of militancy, Pulwama and Shopian having around one hundred local active militants, no rallies or other political activities in these districts have taken place given the volatile situation that prevails here, says a local journalist who did not wish to be named.
Given the sensitivity of the seat, the Election Commission for the first time in history has distributed polling in this restive LS seat in over three phases with polling in Anantnag district to be held on 23 April, in Kulgam on 29 April and on May 6, in Pulwama and Shopian.
Notably, polling in the constituency was deferred twice in 2017 after the seat fell vacant in April 2016 but polls couldn’t be held due to the volatile situation in the area.
“Though some party conventions were held in safe environs in Anantnag and Shopian mostly however, political parties are yet to conduct any major political activity in Pulwama and most parts of Shopian district,” said the journo.
“Political workers are under fear and it has increased after militants recently issued fresh warnings to them and directed them to stay away from polls,” said a security official.
“Due to fear the campaign has so far remained confined only to phone calls and messages however, no interaction or workers meetings have been held so far,” said, a worker of a prominent party.
“There is not even a single family left whose close relative has either been killed or arrested during the past several years now. How can we ask anyone to vote in favour of our party,” said the political worker.
“The people of Shopian and Pulwama particularly youth, are hardly taking any interest in elections due to the violate situation since 2016 Agitation,” he added.
“In Pulwama and Shopian, people completely seem unconcerned about the elections and its outcome,” said Irshad Ahmad, a shopkeeper in Pulwama.
“Many people from these twin districts believe that situation could worsen as polls dates are approaching. The reason being the iron fist approach adopted by the government as mass arrests of youth and even religious leaders has been witnessed in these two districts,” added Irshad.
“The situation is pretty bad and we can’t put the lives of workers at risk by conducting road shows and public meetings in open,” said senior National Conference leader and former Rajya Sabha member Ghulam Nabi Ratinpuri.
“It would be enough if the voter turnout in Pulwama and Shopian will even touch 20 percent mark given the situation in the area,” he said.
Senior PDP leader and former MLA Watchi, Ajaz Mir said that bpublic meetings have been avaoided but political leaders are stressing on indoor meetings.
“We have organized several indoor meeting involving leaders and workers in many areas of the district,” he said.
“In coming days we are going to conduct public meetings in Shopian as well,” he said adding that at present nothing can be said about the voter turnout in these areas.