Mehbooba staring at first election defeat of her career

Mehbooba staring at first election defeat of her career

Shopian/Pulwama: The polling in Pulwama and Shopian districts for the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat portends ill for Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate and party president Mehbooba Mufti.
Mufti is contesting the Anantnag seat against 17 other candidates, including the J&K Congress president Ghulam Ahmad Mir and the National Conference’s Hasnain Masoodi.
Her woes started in the first phase of polling for this seat, in Anantnag district on April 23, where her stronghold and hometown Bijbehara stayed away from the polls. So did Anantnag main town, another stronghold. The polling percentage was between two to three percent in these areas.
“The Anantnag district as a whole did register a poll percentage of around 14 per cent but there was not much Mufti could take away from it, given the fact that pockets that were not her strongholds saw the most polling,” a senior political analyst commented.
The same happened in the second phase on April 29 in Kulgam district, where NC and Congress strongholds, Noorabad and Devsar assembly segments, voted rather significantly while other areas stayed away.
“The PDP’s sympathisers and leaders might argue that Devsar is their stronghold, but the situation on the ground does not say so. There is widespread anger against the PDP,” the analyst said.
The first two phases all but done and dusted, the PDP cadre had their hopes pinned on Pulwama district, which has traditionally voted for the PDP.
The way the poling turned out in Pulwama must have sent alarm bells ringing among the PDP members, especially for Mufti, who has so far never lost an election.
Six assembly segments voted today in the twin districts of Pulwama and Shopian, including Wachi, Pulwama, Rajpora, Tral, Shopian and Pampore. Among these, only Pampore cannot be considered a bastion of the PDP, despite the fact that the party won this seat in the 2014 assembly elections.
Ironically, and sadly for the PDP, Pampore was the only assembly segment today which came out to vote in rather presentable numbers. The poll percentage in Pampore was the highest, 5.26, while other segments recorded percentages ranging between one and three.
“In Pampore as well it was the Khrew area where the bulk of the voting took place. It is the stronghold of Hasanain Masoodi, who is a resident of the area,” a local resident of Pampore said.
The frustration and desperation of the PDP cadre could be gauged by the way former legislator from Watchi, Aijaz Ahmad Mir, was making rounds in Zainapora area — with hardly any security and making frantic calls to his workers every second.
“The encounter (in which three militants were killed on Friday) in Imam Sahib should not have taken place. It has hugely dented the morale of our voters. It was a serious blow to the PDP,” Mir told Kashmir Reader, in between his frantic calls.
He said that he has been calling his voters since morning and asking them to vote. Still, Mir had managed only a few votes till 11 PM, given the fact that only 90 votes were polled in the area, out of about 1700 votes, by that time.
The PDP leaders have been openly questioning the timing of the gunfight in Imam Sahib area on Friday, which claimed lives of three local Hizb militants including the popular Lateef Tiger, a close associate of former HIzb commander Burhan Wani.
Mir, too, made no secrets of it. “The timing (of the encounter) dampened the mood in our stronghold,” he said.
On the ground, however, people were plainly disinterested in today’s election. The day was also not violence-free; clashes took place in some areas and a couple of grenade attacks on polling stations took place as well.
“The general mood is of boycott,” a local in Keegam area of Shopian district told Kashmir Reader.
It took this reporter a while to spot the polling station in the village, where 7 polling booths were kept. It was a school and the gates were latched from inside.
“No one has come to cast vote, so we have kept the gate latched,” a paramilitary guard told Kashmir Reader. At about 2:15 PM, not a single vote had been cast at any of the seven polling booths – which had more than 3,000 voters registered.
The scenes were similar in Pulwama district, another erstwhile bastion of the PDP. People stayed largely away from the booths and even the ones who did want to vote did not dare to.
“Even workers associated with the PDP for years have not come out to vote. And the ones who did have put their lives in danger,” a PDP polling agent at the Central High School in Pulwama told Kashmir Reader.
The number of votes polled validated his claims. At about 3pm, only six votes out of some 1300 had been cast at the two polling booths in the station.
Another indicator of the frustration that the PDP cadre was facing was an incident at Naira in Rajpora segment of Pulwama. A video of the incident has gone viral over social media, showing a close associate of a PDP youth leader throwing blows at a Congress polling agent.
Things for the PDP had started on a very similar note in Bijbehara segment on April 23, where PDP workers had thrashed an NC polling agent at the very polling station where Mehbooba Mufti had voted – minutes after she voted, actually.
It will now be interesting to see how things pan out for PDP and Mufti on May 23. They will have their fingers crossed, for sure.