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  India   Politics  08 Apr 2017  Srinagar tense ahead of Lok Sabha by-poll; 'no cakewalk' , admit officials

Srinagar tense ahead of Lok Sabha by-poll; 'no cakewalk' , admit officials

Published : Apr 8, 2017, 6:14 pm IST
Updated : Apr 8, 2017, 11:29 pm IST

The by-polls to the two LS seats were necessitated by the resignation of sitting members of ruling PDP including Mehbooba Mufti.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. (Photo: )
 Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. (Photo: )

Srinagar: In the tense backdrop that saw thousands of policemen and paramilitary troopers deployed to tighten security in equally important twin constituencies, Srinagar and Anantnag are going to the polls on Sunday and Wednesday, respectively.

The by-polls to the two Lok Sabha seats were necessitated by the resignation of sitting members of ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) including its president Mehbooba Mufti.

While Mufti who was elected from home constituency Anantnag in the 2014 elections quit her Lok Sabha seat to fulfil the Constitutional obligation following her appointment as Chief Minister, her party colleague Tariq Hameed Karra resigned from both the PDP and Parliament in protest against its forging an alliance with ideologically-divergent BJP to form coalition government in the State.

In Srinagar, opposition National Conference (NC) President and three-time Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah is, from all available indications, holding edge over his PDP rival Nazir Ahmed Khan who recently quit Congress to join the party. However, it is going to be a neck-and-neck fight between PDP’s nominee and the Chief Minister’s brother Tassaduq Hussain Mufti and J&K PCC chief and NC-Congress joint candidate Ghulam Ahmed Mir in their home constituency Anantnag.

But for the authorities especially security officials it is not about winning or losing by the parties and candidates in the fray. They are on their toes as ensuring smooth and incident free polling in the face of separatists’ boycott call and looming threat of violence from militants is an uphill battle.

More crucially, a vast majority of voters in both constituencies seems to be quite disinterested in the by-polls as the Valley has yet to come out of tensions set off by Burhan Wani killing in July 2016. The tensions aggravated further following the death of over eighty people in security forces’ actions in the ensuing unrest.

The recent series of incidents across the Valley which saw more bloodshed have only renewed the anger among youth and broad hostility towards the government and mainstream parties particularly the ruling PDP-BJP combine.

It is in this milieu of antagonism and rage that polling is being held in Srinagar on Sunday and, as is acknowledged by the authorities here, it is a task ahead of them which is not simple or easy to complete. “It is no piece of cake. This election is being held in a difficult area in an abnormal and hostile environment,” said a senior police officer who requested anonymity.

It was for this reason that the campaigning for the by-polls has been a low key affair. Both the ruling PDP-BJP combine and NC and Congress which joined hands ahead of the by-polls to put up a joint fight against the former terming it “divisive and communal” chose to restrict their activity to fewer areas and that too after these were declared   ‘secured’ for them by the concerned authorities.

However, they were very on social media in their attempt to reach out to the voters. Smaller parties and candidates in the fray have hardly been visible during the campaigning.

Meanwhile, security forces had to fire warning shots in the air after a bus carrying poll staff and EVMs to Beerwah area of Srinagar constituency on Saturday came under attack by a stone-pelting mob in the main market of Beerwah.

This led to street clashes in the area. Earlier a government building designated as a polling station set to fire in neighbouring Narbal area. However, the building was saved by the timely action of police personnel deployed in the area.

Days ahead of the by-polls, the police began a crackdown on separatists when they issued a formal call for the poll boycott on the premise that election held under the ambit of Indian Constitution cannot be substitute to the promised plebiscite.

Most separatist leaders and activists were placed under house arrest or were detained and lodged in police stations or in jails.

In a separate incident, suspected militants fired gunshots towards the venue of a planned PDP election rally in Acchabal area of Anantnag on Saturday, triggering panic. The cavalcade of senior party leader and minister Abdur Rehman Veeri was attacked with stones by a mob in the highway town of Bijbehara in the same constituency, reports received here said.

In Srinagar’s Khanyar-Khayam area, the “mishandling” of a teargas canister by a policeman caused a loud bang. These incidents though minor in nature have only reinforced the existing fears among both the authorities and the political parties and candidates in fray and their supporters.

Tags: people’s democratic party, mehbooba mufti, lok sabha, national conference
Location: India, Jammu and Kashmir, Srinagar