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Posted at: Apr 21, 2019, 6:35 AM; last updated: Apr 21, 2019, 1:14 PM (IST)

Polling 2 days away, Anantnag hardly enthused

Election fervour missing ahead of April 23 vote, locals say in mood to boycott polling
Polling 2 days away, Anantnag hardly enthused
Jammu and Kashmir Congress chief and party candidate Ghulam Ahmad Mir shakes hands with party workers in Anantnag. Amin War

Majid Jahangir

Tribune News Service

Anantnag, April 20

Elections are just two days away, but Anantnag is silent. Political activity, if any, has been restricted to high-security areas. Even the banners, buntings and posters of political parties and candidates are missing. Anantnag seems to be in a mood to boycott.

While Anantnag district in the Anantnag parliamentary constituency is the least challenging for the security apparatus when compared to Kulgam, Pulwama and Shopian and the government expects a slightly better turnout, the absence of poll activity in this district is worrying.

“There is a mood for boycott,” said a trader in Anantnag, while narrating his interactions  with a cross-section of people from the district. “There is no interest in elections this time. There is a lot of anger against mainstream parties and they also understand it and have not held poll-related activities in the open.”

In the Lok Sabha constituency, former CM and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, 59, is up against Ghulam Ahmed Mir of the Congress and former High Court judge Justice Hasnain Masood of the National Conference (NC). In all, there are 18 candidates in fray from the sensitive seat.

While people in Anantnag town are indifferent, election fervour is missing even in the traditional voting areas of Dooru, Pahalgam and Kokernag. There have been no roadshows or open political activities —  in contrast to the 2014 Assembly and parliamentary elections when pre-poll activities were at their peak in south Kashmir.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha poll, Anantnag district had polled 40.21 per cent and the constituency had recorded a voter turnout of 28.88 per cent.

Mehbooba won from the Anantnag parliamentary seat in 2014 and vacated it in 2016 after she got elected from the Anantnag Assembly constituency. However, for security reasons, the bypoll for the Anantnag LS seat could not be held and it was one of the longest delayed bypolls in the country since 1996.

And now, the election to the Lok Sabha constituency would be held in three phases, which has never happened even during the peak of militancy in 1990s.

South Kashmir has been a PDP bastion. However, popularity of the party has now nosedived, especially after the killing of militant commander Burhan Wani in 2016 that triggered a massive unrest which saw around 100 youth die. Over the last three years, south Kashmir has become the epicentre of new-age militancy and civil agitation.

“The PDP alliance with the right-wing BJP has destroyed the image of the party,” said Rashid Ahmed of Bijbehara. “It is the PDP that allowed the saffron party to come to power in the state and people will not forget that.”

Mehbooba Mufti is trying hard to ensure she retains the seat. At one of the workers’ meeting, she cried inconsolably to make the party men understand that the alliance with the BJP was made for the good of Kashmir.

A government official, while terming the holding of the poll “challenging”, said all necessary arrangements were in place.

The Election Commission has already curtailed the polling time for the Anantnag constituency by two hours. The voting time will now be from 7 am to 4 pm.

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