Mehbooba’s uphill task
The three phase poll in south Kashmir’s Anantnag constituency began today with poll observers keeping a keen eye on this constituency for multiple reasons. One being that the entire south Kashmir belt has been on the fore front of anti government protests during the past few years and the second all important reason being that the Peoples Democratic Party Chief, Mehbooba Mufti is engaged in a political battle in this constituency.
South Kashmir has been a trusted and tested bastion for the PDP. During the last assembly elections PDP had outperformed its opponents as this region gave the party maximum number of seats. In 2002 and 2014, on both the occasions the party went on to form the government in J&K, it got maximum seats from the south – 12 in 2002 and 11 in 2014.
Even when Mufti Mohammad Sayed was the chief minister in 2014, the constituency was represented by Mehbooba Mufti in the parliament. After she took over from her father and donned the CM’s chair, the LS seat fell vacant and since then elections could not be held here owing to the bad situation prevailing in the region.
For Mehbooba Mufti, this Lok Sabha election is a crucial battle, rather a litmus test on her grip and hold over the region. The outcome of this election will have a far reaching impact on her political career as well as her party that is battling the last years rebellion where many stalwarts left the party with this prediction that the party will lose its ground that it had gained in the south Kashmir belt.
Interestingly, south Kashmir has been the PDP’s bastion but since the killing of Hizbul commander Burhan Wani and the spillover of the summer uprising in 2016, mainstream politics has not been the same here.
The Election Commission of India (ECI) had to altogether cancel the by-polls to the Anantnag parliament seat after the exercise couldn’t be held for three years when it had fallen vacant in April 2016. Given the situation the present LS election in the region is a major political activity that is being carried out and its outcome will have an indelible impact on the political landscape of the region.
Though Mehbooba is fighting on her home turf but the battle is not that easy. She faces competition from arch rivals National Conference and the Congress. And in such a scenario her grip on the voters and the ability to make herself relevant will make the difference.
But in the end it all depends on the voter’s preference and choice that will seal her political fate.
Mehbooba’s worries are compounded by the facts that the voting belts in south Kashmir are either NC strongholds or the voters are inclined towards the Congress. In this scenario PDP banked on the Bijbehara, Anantnag, Shangus belts besides its cadre in Pulwama and Shopian districts.
However, a strong anti-poll mood in Pulwama and Shopian and even a marginally high voter turnout in anti PDP belts will tilt the balance in favour of her opponents. And if this turns into a reality PDP will have to do much more to become relevant in the next assembly elections that will be held in the following months.