A war of political veterans has begun in Kashmir for the March 7 Lok Sabha polls.
National Conference strongman and Union Environment Minister Saif-ud-Din Soz is contesting for the fourth time from Baramulla against Muzzafar Hussain Baig, a Supreme Court lawyer enjoying support from almost all anti-ruling party quarters.
Former Union Home Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed has thrown his hat in the Anantnag seat ring, fighting the most prestigious battle of his four decade-long political career. He is facing a contest from his own onetime supporter Union Minister of State for Home Mohammad Maqbool Dar, now the Janata Dal candidate from the constituency.
The arrival of Mr Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Mr Baig on Kashmir's political scene has posed a challenge for the National Conference in the Baramulla and Anantnag constituencies. "It is going to be a contest this time", admitted a senior Minister in the Farooq Abdullah Government.
On the other hand, Prof Chaman Lal Gupta, a BJP veteran is the party candidate from the Udhampur constituency that has some of the most sensitive pockets influenced by militancy in the Doda district and the higher reaches of Udhampur and Kathua districts.
There are three others of the ILK in the field Rajinder Singh Chib of the National Conference, Bhim Singh of the Panthers Party and Randhir Singh of the Congress.
The Congress has reintroduced former Minister and president of the Indian National [trade Union Congress (INTUC) Randhir Singh in the electoral politics after a long gap of over two decades.
Mufti Mohammad Sayeed is matching the greater autonomy slogan of the ruling National Conference with his own agenda to challenge what he calls the "misrule" of the National Conference since its resumption of power. He also touches a raw nerve when he talks about bringing to an end the excesses in Kashmir.
With an eye on the voters loyal to separatists he pleads for a dialogue with the secessionist leaders to bring the long-awaited political stability and peace to the people of Kashmir.
It is for the first time that Mr Sayeed is contesting Lok Sabha elections in Jammu and Kashmir. Earlier, he had been contesting from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar winning from the former in 1989 but losing in 1996 from the latter.
The National Conference is making all the necessary moves to check their opponents who are drawing large crowds at places.
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