As Abrar Rashid stepped into North Kashmir he found himself amidst a sea of supporters. Thousands of enthusiastic individuals, especially youth from diverse corners of the district, had gathered to hear Rashid’s message and rally behind him.

Abrar is spearheading the electoral campaign here on behalf of his father and former MLA Abdul Rashid Sheikh, better known as Engineer Rashid. The crowds gather to catch a glimpse of Abrar and are chanting slogans like “‘Bandeporeok vote kas, Engineras beye kas’ (Bandipora will vote for, Engineer who else)”.

Abrar in his 20s, addressed the massive gathering with ease, but he would have never thought of leading political rallies at this age under normal circumstances. However, he has now decided to campaign extensively on behalf of his jailed father.

Engineer Rashid is contesting from the Baramulla parliamentary seat as an independent candidate. Baramulla will go to polls in the fifth phase of the ongoing Lok Sabha elections on May 20.

“We have started the elections campaign from May 7, and I wasn’t expecting such an overwhelming response,” Abrar said. Forget the well known South Kashmir seat, the real action lies beyond north of Srinagar, in the highly heterogeneous belt of Baramulla Lok Sabha constituency.

This is where Omar Abdullah , the former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, is testing his political luck by locking horns with an alleged ‘B-Team’ of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP in Kashmir. Engineer Rashid’s entry into the electoral contest has introduced a new dynamic to the ongoing competition between National Conference’s (NC) Omar Abdullah and Jammu and Kashmir People's Conference’s (JKPC) Sajad Lone. Lone, as he has the potential to influence and divide votes across various assembly segments.

As the Srinagar Lok Sabha elections concluded on Monday, all eyes are on North Kashmir now. With the significant response Rashid and his party, the Awami Ittehad Party (AIP), has garnered, analysts believe he could bring about a major surprise. Engineer’s participation is seen as giving an edge to Omar Abdullah. Political observers maintain that incarcerated former legislator Engineer Rashid will be the X-factor in the Baramulla Lok Sabha seat, who will divide the votes in the region. In the last parliamentary elections, Rashid garnered more than 1 lakh votes, losing to National Conference’s Akbar Lone.

Here are exclusive images from the region: