Battle for Rajouri-Anantnag begins amid heightened security concerns : The Tribune India

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Battle for Rajouri-Anantnag begins amid heightened security concerns

Following contentious postponement of poll date, segment also saw militant attacks last week

Battle for Rajouri-Anantnag begins amid heightened security concerns

Locals gather for a public meeting of NC leader Omar Abdullah in Pahalgam on Wednesday. PTI

Our Correspondent

Srinagar, May 22

Political parties have shifted their focus to South Kashmir’s Anantnag-Rajouri seat, which will vote on May 25. But even the creation of the seat, following the 2022 delimitation, has been contentious.

Regional parties were shocked by the decision to combine Poonch and Rajouri districts from Jammu with Anantnag-Kulgam and parts of Shopian district of South Kashmir, as these are separated by the mighty Pir Panjal mountains. The only road that connects the two regions — the Mughal Road — remains shut for nearly seven months.

Recent militant attacks in Poonch-Rajouri and Kashmir’s Shopian and Pahalgam have heightened tensions and raised security concerns.

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti has called for an investigation into the Apni Party, accusing it of trying to ensure a boycott of elections in the Kashmir region of the constituency. Mufti alleged that the latter wanted to benefit from a higher turnout in the Rajouri-Poonch region of Jammu. In response, the Apni Party has demanded scrutiny of the PDP’s funds in Rajouri.

The constituency, with 18 Assembly segments and an electorate of 19,25,450 votes, presents a unique blend of terrains and demographics, including a significant tussle between Paharis and Gujjars.

The BJP is not contesting the seat directly, but has extended support to Apni Party’s candidate, Zaffar Iqbal Manhas, a Pahari from Shopian. However, the main contest is between National Conference’s Mian Altaf, a prominent Gujjar spiritual leader, and Mehbooba Mufti, who hopes to sway both Gujjars and Paharis, despite facing opposition.

Since the polls were announced, the constituency has been fraught with controversies. The Election Commission of India’s (ECI) postponed polling in the segment from May 7 to May 25. This came following requests from the BJP and other regional parties as they cited adverse weather and closure of Mughal road as potential hurdles for voter participation.

PDP president Mehbooba Mufti and National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah vehemently opposed the ECI move, alleging that the BJP wanted to influence voters in the region.

The National Conference has a strong structure in the constituency. It is fighting with the support from the Congress and the CPIM, while the PDP is fighting alone.

Mehbooba Mufti’s daughter Iltija Mufti has been campaigning in the constituency for the past month. Mehbooba Mufti herself is shuttling between Anantnag and Rajouri to seek votes.

As election-day approaches, the seat remains a hotbed of political activity and disputes.

#Anantnag #Kashmir #Poonch #Rajouri #Srinagar

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