Farooq or Karra? Ballot or boycott?

Srinagar: Will Farooq Abdullah-led National Conference regain Srinagar Parliamentary constituency and win it for record 10th time since 1966? Or will People’s Democratic Party’s Tariq Hameed Karra or any of 12 remaining contenders do what Independent Shamim Ahmad Shamim and Congress’s Mir Ghulam Muhammad Magami managed in 1971 and 1996, respectively—a rare win.
Apart from who wins from the constituency—spanned in three districts of Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal—all eyes would be whether boycott prevails over ballot after south Kashmir.
While answer to who will prevail among the candidates would be declared next month, result of battle between boycott verses ballot would be known by 1700 hours Wednesday in what would be an hour reduced polling duration.
“The polling time in Srinagar constituency shall be from 7 am to 5 pm instead of 7 am to 6 pm. This has been done in wake of security concern following incidents in south Kashmir. We want all polling staff to return safe and sound,” said Deputy Commissioner Srinagar, Farooq Ahmad Shah.
There are 14 candidates in fray but 12 of them as of now have been ruled out by political pundits who see it as direct contest between Farooq Abdullah, seeking re-election, and Tariq Hamid Karra of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed-led PDP.
Besides facing challenge to retain the parliamentary seat, the septuagenarian Farooq Abdullah is against odds to keep his unbeaten record in any political battle intact.
There are over 12 lakh registered voters in Srinagar (591977), Budgam (428799) and Ganderbal with 150976 voters.
Srinagar constituency is spanned over 15 constituencies and NC represents most of them, wholly for all the eight Assembly segments in Srinagar and two in Ganderbal. Besides Srinagar and Ganderbal, NC has its vote bank in certain pockets of Budgam and Chrar-e-Sharief constituencies.
When it comes to present strength based on representation in Assembly, odds are against Tariq Hamid Karra, who even lost 2008 Assembly elections from Batamaloo constituency to NC’s Irfan Shah.
However, the PDP candidate is banking on slogan of change and possible division of votes, especially in fringes of Srinagar and Budgam. At the same time, political pundits see Ganderbal to keep its loyalty to Abdullahs.
The NC has won the seat every time barring two occasions. In 1996, Mir Ghulam Muhammad Magami of the Congress won the Lok Sabha polls when NC boycotted it while journalist Shamim Ahmad Shamim won the 1971 election as an Independent candidate even as many believe that he had backing of National Conference.
The Srinagar Lok Sabha seat has 12.31 lakh voters including 5.72 lakh women who are eligible to cast their votes at 1546 polling stations. Of the 1546 polling stations, only 3.5 per cent have been declared as normal. According to security agencies, 1021 polling stations have been declared as hypersensitive and 470 as sensitive. Eighteen polling stations have been set up for migrant voters of the Lok Sabha constituency in Jammu, Udhampur and Delhi. While 13 polling stations have been set up in Jammu, one has been set up in Udhampur and four in Delhi to facilitate the migrant Kashmiri Pandits to exercise their franchise.
The electioneering for the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat was by and large peaceful. However, two mysterious explosions near the venue of National Conference election rallies at Magam in central Budgam and Khanyar area in Srinagar on Sunday triggered panic, prompting security establishment to beef up security with 211 companies added to already planed security cover in the constituency.