Dull campaign for first phase of Anantnag polls ends

Dull campaign for first phase of Anantnag polls ends

Anantnag: A dull political campaign for the first phase of polling for the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat came to an end on Sunday, with the only activity in the past fortnight or so being a few workers’ meets in different parts of Anantnag district.
The campaign in Anantnag has been colourless with no public rallies being organised by the main political parties. There have been no advertising hoardings, no posters, no road shows. The party workers’ meets, too, have been held in secure zones with a handful of workers in presence.
The last day of the campaign turned out to be no different. A few workers’ meets were held in, what are thought to be, areas that will vote in Anantnag district.
The workers’ meets today were held by all the three major parties: the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Congress, and the National Conference (NC). Senior party leaders addressed a handful of workers.
The NC held a meet in Aishmuqam area where party president and former chief minister Omar Abdullah addressed the workers. Also present were some senior party leaders as well as the candidate for Anantnag seat, Hasnain Masoodi.
Omar talked to the media following the meet and criticised the Election Commission of India (ECI) for going too soft on violation of the Model Code of Conduct by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other senior BJP leaders.
“Taking note of some smaller violations and banning some people for two-three days is not how the ECI should work,” Omar said, after he was asked about Modi’s claims of securing captured wing commander Abhinandan’s release from Pakistan by threatening the neighbouring country.
Omar said that the PM and some senior BJP leaders have been repeatedly invoking national security and religion in their campaigns.
“And the ECI is yet to take note. The ECI should prove it is an independent body, not by talking about it but by taking action,” Omar said.
Another former chief minister, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, who is also the party’s candidate in Anantnag, also addressed a couple of workers’ meets in Kokernag and Verinag areas.
Mehbooba criticised the Congress and the BJP for being the same when it comes to Kashmir.
“They have their national interests and when it is a question of that, Kashmir does not even feature in the scheme of things,” Mehbooba said.
She reminded the people and later the media of how Ghulam Nabi Azad in 2008 tried to award a piece of land to the Amarnath shrine board without even taking into account Article 370.
“Because he wanted to please voters in India by doing so. It was the Congress party that hanged Afzal Guru out of turn to garner votes and to address their national interest,” Mehbooba said, adding that the BJP and the Congress were no friends of Kashmir.
She said that that the two were the same and the BJP was now doing what Congress tried to do in their tenure. She appealed to her workers to come out in large numbers and vote.
“This time it’s not about sadak, bijli paani. It’s about protecting our identity and we should keep that in mind,” she said.
The Congress party also held a couple of workers meet in two different villages of Verinag area – Halstar and Haalan – where the party candidate Ghulam Ahmad Mir addressed workers and urged them to vote.
The ECI has divided Anantnag Lok Sabha seat in three phases, a first of its kind experiment to have been conducted in India, given the security situation in south Kashmir.
Anantnag district will go to polls on April 23, Kulgam district on April 29, and Shopian and Pulwama districts on May 4.
As many as 18 candidates are in fray for the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat. The contest however will be between Mehbooba Mufti, Ghulam Ahmad Mir and the NC candidate Hasanain Masoodi.
The Anantnag seat had remained vacant since 2016 after Mehbooba resigned to take the Chief Minister’s office following her father’s death.
The polls were scheduled to take place in April 2017 but violence on the day of the Srinagar by-poll forced the ECI to postpone them. The by-polls were never held after that. It has been the longest deferred by-poll in the history of India.