RAFIQ A WANI/YASIR ASHRAF
SRINAGAR: The scars left behind by the September floods might prove to be the biggest challenge to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah in Sonawar constituency where he is trying his luck for the first time after giving up his family’s stronghold Ganderbal.
In the constituency, considered high profile for it is home to Omar and the CM candidate of opposition PDP, Mufti Mohammad Syed, the contest is mainly between Omar, who is also the working president of National Conference and PDP’s Mohammad Ashraf Mir.
However, a major deciding factor in this NC bastion is going to be the post-flood scenario in which the badly-affected electorate has started to realise the indifference which they say the NC-Congress coalition displayed in the times of devastation.
“This area has always been a stronghold of NC, and its leaders have always won from here. But they ignored us when we needed them the most. During floods, the people did everything on their own; there was no help from the government,” a former NC worker from Sonawar area told Kashmir Reader, wishing anonymity.
“Our area was just a stone’s throw away from the CM’s Gupkar residence, yet his government didn’t help us. Now he (Omar) wants us to vote for him. It doesn’t make a sense,” he added.
Sonawar, which is going to polls along with seven other constituencies of Srinagar on December 14, has 77, 401 voters. Of the total electorate, 40,414 are males and 36,987 females. In the last Assembly elections in 2008, the turnout was 39.61 percent and 26 candidates were in the fray.
Stretched between Khanmoh and Fakir Gujri, the constituency has a mix of urban, rural, and kandi voters. Given the NC’s “underperformance”, the situation might be unlike the past in the interiors of Dal lake and in the rural and kandi areas such as Fakir Gujri, which have a significant population of NC sympathisers.
People in the areas are visibly unhappy with the efforts made by the NC-led coalition for the development.
“They take us for granted. We have been voting for them, but what did we get? We don’t just need buildings, toilets, and drains; our educated youths are unemployed. Time has come to teach NC a lesson for its injustice,” an elderly resident of Fakir Gujri said.
According to the people, the local MLA Yaseen Shah, who belongs to NC, only enjoyed the perks of power during the last six years. “He did nothing for the people,” a resident of Kotur Khana, an area close to the Dal lake, told Kashmir Reader.
While PDP sees itself in a strong position, there is, however, no apparent PDP wave in the constituency. Yet the party candidate is confident of his victory.
“They (NC) have totally failed on the ground,” Mir told Kashmir Reader. Mir is contesting from the constituency for the second consecutive time. He lost the 2008 elections to Shah with a meager margin of about 50 votes.
“For me he (Omar) is not the CM but just a candidate. He conceded defeat even without contesting in Ganderbal. I don’t face any stiff competition from him. He has to fight for his survival,” Mir said.
“I challenge Omar to win form Sonawar,” he added.
Besides Omar and Mir, Khem Lata Wakhloo of the Congress will also contest from Sonawar. But she seems to have a long way to go to give a fight to Omar and Mir.