Anantnag Votes: For Mehbooba Mufti?
SRINAGAR: Moderate to brisk polling is being recorded in Anantnag assembly segment of Jammu and Kashmir which will decide the fate of the Peoples Democratic Party president, Mehbooba Mufti, who has to get elected to the state legislature within six months to continue as the chief minister of the troubled state.
Amid allegations of cash-for-votes against the ruling party and an alarming rise in militancy related incidents in the south Kashmir districts during which many police personnel were killed, moderate to brisk voter turnout is being recorded in the constituency, according to witnesses.
An official spokesperson said the constituency recorded 14 percent voting till 11 am. While the polling has been a low-key affair in the main town of Anantnag, moderate to brisk polling has been reported in peripheral parts of the constituency.
At Kehribal area of Anantnag, serpentine queues of young and old, men and women have shown up outside the polling booths since morning to cast their votes, "Our area has been neglected by successive governments. We hope that Mehboobaji resolves the connectivity and water problems here," an aged woman who identified herself as Rehti Begum, said.
The election will be the first test of popularity for the PDP and the chief minister who has come under increased criticism from the separatist leadership as well as sections of civil society for becoming partner in the Hindu rightwing BJP's designs of "changing the demography of the state".
The bypoll for the seat was necessitated following the demise of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed at AIIMS on January 7 with his daughter tipped to retain the seat. Mehbooba, a member of Lok Sabha from Anantnag constituency, could have chosen to enter the J&K Legislature by getting elected in the Upper House.
"She is a grassroots leader who has always trodden difficult paths which have proved fruitful for her as well as the party in the long run. Mind you, Mehboobaji has never lost any assembly election in her two decade long political career," a close confidante of the chief minister told The Citizen.
Mehbooba was first elected from Bijbehara in 1996 on Congress ticket but she quit the party along with his father and the duo later formed Peoples Democratic Party. She won again from Pahalgam seat in 2002 but later vacated the seat for her father. She won Anantnag Parliamentary twice.
Congress candidate, Hilal Ahmad Shah and National Conference candidate Iftikhar Hussain Misgar are the other contenders from the constituency. Five other independent candidates include Advocate Mujeeb-u-Rehman of Awami Itihad Party and Tejinder Singh are also in the fray.