Srinagar: Very tough contest is on card this time in the Srinagar Parliamentary constituency, represented by National Conference (NC) since 1975, barring twice in 1996 and 2014.
Polling in the constituency will be held on April 9 despite separatist appeal and militant warning to people to boycott the polls. However, the authorities have put under house arrest or detained in police stations and jails, separatist leaders, including both the factions of the Hurriyat Conference (HC), Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) to prevent them from holding anti-poll campaign.
Though hundreds of security forces and state police personnel are already deployed to prevent any militant attack and demonstrations, additional paramilitary forces have been rushed to poll duty for free, fair and peaceful polls in Srinagar and Anantnag constituencies.
People however, remained indifferent to poll process but contesting parties and candidates are organizing meetings, mainly in big halls, seeking mandate.
In 1996, Congress won the seat after NC did not put up any candidate when militancy was at its peak in the valley while in 2014 Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Tariq Hameed Karra got elected from the constituency after defeating NC president Dr Farooq Abdullah by a margin of about 50,000 votes.
Mr Karra resigned from the seat and PDP before joining Congress, which has announced to support the NC candidate after the two parties entered into an alliance.
Though there are 11 candidates in the fray in the constituency, spread over 15 Assembly segments in three districts of Badgam, Ganderbal and Srinagar, the main contest will be between former chief minister Dr Abdullah and ruling PDP candidate Nazir Ahmad Khan, supported by ruling alliance partner Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the party which has not put up any candidate in bypoll in Srinagar and Anantnag constituencies. The other candidates in the fray included Bikram Singh of Liberal Democratic Party, Chetan Sharma of Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha, Sajad Reshi of Rashtriya Samajwadi Party (S), and independent candidates Sajjad Hussain Beigh, Ghulam Hassan Dar, Farooq Ahmad Dar and Mehraj Khurshid Malik.
Among the 15 assembly segments seven are represented by PDP, seven by NC and one PDF.
NC president Dr Abdullah, joined by his son also a former chief minister and working president of the party Omar Abdullah, have been addressing election rallies and other meetings in different parts of the constituency.
Meanwhile, a number of senior Congress leaders, including Karra, are also addressing election meetings, seeking vote for Dr Abdullah.
Interestingly, the NC leaders without highlighting the failure of the PDP-BJP alliance government are warning people that voting in favour of PDP candidate was directly favouring BJP Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Dr Abdullah and Omar Abdullah besides other NC leaders are alleging that BJP was using PDP as a Trojan Horse in the state.
However, the PDP leaders, including party president Mehbooba Mufti,have been denying these allegations, saying that NC always sold the interests of people of Kashmir for their self interest.
The PDP leaders are highlighting the reopening of Srinagar- Muzaffarabad and other roads and are advocating for reopening of more cross-Line of Control (LoC) roads.
The constituency, which has around 13.73 lakh eligible voters, remained a stronghold of NC since 1975 when the party (NC) started participating in the democratic process following Indira-Sheikh accord.
However, in 1996 the seat was won by Congress candidate Ghulam
Mohammad Mir when NC did not put up any candidate as majority NC leaders, including Dr Abdullah and Omar Abdullah were living outside the valley due to militancy.
Before 1967, members to Lok Sabha were being nominated from Jammu and Kashmir.
Former prime minister of the state Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad was the first to represent the Srinagar constituency in 1967.
However, in 1971 Shamim Ahmad Shamim, an independent candidate supported by “Mahaz Raishumari Front” headed by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah won from the constituency.
Later after Indira-Sheikh accord in 1975, Begum Akbar Jehan, mother of Dr Abdullah represented the seat in 1977 as NC nominee.
Abdul Rashid Kabli of NC represented the seat in 1984 and Mohammad Shafi Bhat (NC) in 1989.
Congress candidate Ghlam Mohammad Mir won in 1996. Meanwhile, Omar Abdullah represented the constituency in 1998, 1999 and 2004.
In 2009, Dr Abdullah won from the constituency as NC nominee and become minister in the UPA government.
However, Dr Abdullah lost to Mr Karra of PDP in 2014 by a margin of about 50,000 votes.
Mr Karra who was opposed to alliance with BJP finally resigned from PDP and Lok Sabha to join Congress with the result the seat became vacant.
Even after the defeat, Dr Abdullah announced that he will contest elections as NC candidate till he is alive.
All 1,559 polling booths spread in three districts in Srinagar parliamentary seat have been categorized as “hypersensitive” or “sensitive”. (UNI)