Anantnag: Heirs of three prominent state leaders are among those in the race in this Lok Sabha seat with the main challenge for sitting National Conference (NC) MP Mirza Mehboob Beg set to come from PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, who has never lost an election in south Kashmir.
The 55-year-old Mehbooba is daughter of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) patron and former Union Home Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed while Beg is the son of Mirza Afzal Beg, the late leader who was instrumental in the Indira-Abdullah accord of 1975 which paved the way for the return of National Conference to power in Jammu and Kashmir after 22 years.
Aam Aadmi Party candidate, Tanveer Maqbool Dar, is the son of former Union Minister of State for Home, the late Mohammed Maqbool Dar.
The PDP chief had won the seat in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections but did not contest in 2009, when Beg managed to clinch the seat by defeating her party’s Peer Muhammad Hussain by a slender margin of 5,200 votes.
This time, as she looks to wrest his seat, junior Beg will be wary of the challenge posed by Mehbooba as she enjoys an unbeatable record of never losing an election — Assembly or parliamentary — in south Kashmir since she made her poll debut in 1996.
The Anantnag Lok Sabha seat has 12.72 lakh voters of whom 6,01,688 are women.
But Beg exuded confidence about his prospects and said it is his performance as an MP which would see him through.
“I tell people that Mehbooba has also been in Parliament for five years. See how she utilised the MP-LAD funds. She now says she will take the issue of Kashmir and its people to Parliament, but people are witness to what she did when she had the opportunity,” Beg said.
He claims to have articulated the wishes and aspirations of the people of the state in Parliament over the last five years.
“When I had the opportunity, I raised the issues of the hanging of Mohd Afzal Guru (Parliament attack convict), Pathribal fake encounter, autonomy and the uncertainty faced by the youth here,” he said.
While Beg is counting on NC’s alliance with Congress to fetch him the votes, PDP is targeting the tie-up claiming that the two parties were scared of it.
“It is weakness on part of both (NC and Congress). They have lost the battle even before fighting it,” PDP chief spokesperson Naeem Akhtar said, adding that, “both the parties will sink together. We are hopeful about winning”. The 65-year-old Beg, who was a medical practitioner before joining politics, is betting on the NC-Congress alliance as he looks to retain the seat with the coalition government having completed five years in the state.
However, any doubts about the alliance not working at the grass-roots level have been dispelled to a large extent with state Congress president Saifuddin Soz and several other leaders of the party holding campaigns for Beg.
“Congress has a substantial vote bank in south Kashmir and their leaders have assured us that their rank and file will stand by me to ensure my win,” Beg told PTI.
If Beg wins, it will be the first time anybody has defeated Mehbooba in an election in south Kashmir.
NC and Congress have claimed there is an understanding between PDP and BJP for the polls although PDP spokesperson Akhtar rejected such reports saying, “For us, it is not important who rules in Delhi… What is important for us is the prosperity of the people of J-K?”
BJP has put up Mushtaq Ahmad Malik as its contestant here while the candidate for Awami Ittehad Party is Tanveer Hussain Khan.
But it is the AAP candidate Dar — a doctor by profession — who has the potential of spoiling calculations for Beg and Mehbooba. He may cut into the alliance votes as his father Mohammad Maqbool Dar was associated with Congress towards the latter part of his political career.
But NC-Congress is leaving no stone unturned to retain the seat with Congress having asked its workers to whole- heartedly support and vote for the NC candidate. Congress enjoys formidable support in south Kashmir’s Assembly segments of Kokernag and Dooru.— PTI