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News analysis
NC loses ground, Hurriyat sidelined
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, January 30
The electorate for civic elections to municipal councils and committees in Baramula and Kupwara has reaffirmed support to the ruling coalition partners in Jammu and Kashmir. In a record-breaking turnout that touched an all time high of 86 per cent in the militant-infested Kupwara district and 48 per cent in Baramula, the voters completely sidelined the separatists and the Hurriyat hardliners who had been voicing boycott calls from various platforms, including Pak TV.

The trend of shifting voter loyalty, first witnessed in the 2002 Assembly poll, is more pronounced this time around, with the NC biting the dust in many trusted bastions. Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) which began making inroads into the NC strongholds in 2002 has continued to do so this time also. From 130 wards of all municipal councils/committees in Kupwara and Baramula, Independents have won 55 followed by the PDP, the Congress with 25 and the NC with just 19.

The NC has emerged the biggest loser in yesterday’s electoral battle which is an indication that the ruling coalition is here to stay. The most significant loss for the NC has been the militant-infested Kupwara, where it has a sitting MLA. Ironically, the NC’s Mir Saifullah is serving a second term from Kupwara, where his party fared poorly yesterday. Out of 13 wards, it won one, leaving the rest to the PDP which took seven and the Independents who took five.

This loss is a big jolt to the NC, given the fact that the traditional fight in Kupwara has always been between the NC and Sajjad Lone’s People’s Conference. From Kupwara and Handwara’s 26 wards, the Independents have bagged 18 seats, the PDP seven and the NC has won just three.

Even in Handwara, which was former NC Minister Mohammad Ramzan’s stronghold till the 2002 poll, the Independents, backed by sitting MLA Ghulam Mohiduddin Sofi, have won 11 out of 13 seats. The NC has won just one.

In Baramula also, the NC has heavily lost out to the PDP-Congress alliance. To begin with, it has been completely wiped out in Baramula town where it won just one out of 21 wards. The PDP took nine, the Congress four while the Independents won five seats here. It is significant that the NC had bagged the Baramula assembly seat in the 1996 poll. But ever since, the voters have shifted their loyalties to the PDP, whose Finance Minister Muzaffar Beg is a sitting MLA from here.

Likewise Sopore, which was with the NC in 1996, has been lost to the Congress which now has a sitting MLA from here. Out of 21 wards here, the NC has won just two, the Independents have taken nine and the Congress has won eight. Interestingly, Sopore, which is also considered Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s home, ignored his boycott calls to record a high turnout of 26 per cent yesterday.

In the Hajan municipal committee, slain counterinsurgent leader Kukka Parrey’s Awami League won 12 out of 13 wards, leaving one for the NC. Independents held the sway in the Bandipora municipal committee as well. Of the 17 wards here, they won 10, leaving four to the PDP, two to the Congress and one to the NC.

The NC has managed some presence in the Pattan, Uri and Sumbal municipal committees. While in Sumbal, it won six seats out of 13, in Uri it took one out of five. The Congress won the rest of the four seats, with its MLA Taj Mohiuddin being in command.

Interestingly, all the five wards of the Kunzer municipal committee have been won by the PDP. All these went uncontested with the PDP candidates being declared elected unanimously.


Ex-NC leader’s son among 3 killed

Srinagar, January 30
Militants shot dead three persons, including the son of a former National Conference leader, in separate incidents in Jammu and Kashmir, official sources said here today.

Militants today shot at a contractor, Farooq Ahmad Bhat, from point-blank range in Tailbal locality in the Hazratbal area this morning, seriously wounding him, the sources said adding that he succumbed to his injuries at a hospital.

Bhat is son of former National Conference leader Abdul Samad Bhat who was shot dead by militants in 1998.

Ultras barged into the residence of Ghulam Hassan Bhat and dragged out his wife Hanifa and son Tanveer Ahmad in Jogipora village in the Kulgam area of Anantnag, the sources said.

While Hanifa was shot dead and her husband was injured, their son was strangulated to death, the sources added.

Meanwhile, the security forces busted two hideouts of militants and recovered arms and ammunition in Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir, an official spokesman said here today.

Security forces recovered one hand grenade and a wireless set from a militant hideout in Ganai Mohalla in the Handwara area last night. An AK rifle, three magazines, 326 rounds, one pistol with magazine, six rounds, 19 hand grenades, 47 UBGL grenades, nine detonators, two pencil timers, two IED boxes and five kgs of explosive material were recovered from a hideout in Dardpora village of the district, he said. — PTI

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