October 1999 News

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Low Anantnag turnout dashes Opp hopes of winning seats

5 October 1999
The Indian Express
By Bishan Kumar

SRINAGAR: The abysmally low turnout in Anantnag parliamentary constituency on Monday has two clear fallouts: hope of at least one non-National Conference representative from the Valley making it to Parliament is gone and all the three Valley seats are set to go into the NC's kitty.

The entire Opposition is outraged - calling it the final nail in the coffin of democracy. The Congress has gone to the extent of demanding dismissal of Farooq Abdullah Government and imposition of President's Rule in the State for resorting to unfair means to win all seats in Kashmir.

Former Union Home Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed is licking his wounds as his bete noire, Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, has checkmated him by adopting superior (and not-so-fair) `strategy' and thereby nipping in the bud the Opposition's hopes of resurgence in the Valley.

The Opposition, though fragmented, is at least united in baying for the blood of Farooq. "It might be a victory for Farooq Abdullah but is definitely a defeat of democracy," said leaders belonging to the Congress, the People' Democratic Party, CPI(M) and the Janata Dal. The Congress had given a good fight to Omar Abdullah (NC) in Srinagar on September 5 but only 12 per cent voting has left Aga Syed Mehdi. The same fate appears to be staring Mufti in Anantnag. The mood is despondent in the People's Democratic Party - the only party which showed some promise of emerging as an alternative to the despised but so far indispensable political dispensation headed by Farooq. A streak of anger is visible too in Mufti's young cadre. "If New Delhi wants only Farooq Abdullah to win from Kashmir, what is the point of conducting these farcical elections in the name of democracy?" questions a PDP election worker of PDP.

Mufti campaign in-charge, Ghulam Nabi Mir Lasjan's angry words carry a veiled threat - "The rigging in 1987 had produced one Salauddin (supreme commander of Hizbul Majahideen), many more Salauddins will emerge because of rigging in this election. That is our greatest worry as nationalists." Similar sentiments were expressed by the loyal band of workers of PDP candidate in Baramulla.

What happened in Anantnag is bewildering . The Assembly segments of Pahalgam, Anantnag Homshailbug and Pampore recorded polling between 1.5 and 8 per cent only. The behaviour of voters in Anantnag is shocking for the PDP as the town was set to vote largely in favour of Mufti.

Just three days before polling a large number of people interviewed by this correspondent did not mince words in saying that they would come out in large numbers to vote for Mufti, for they were extremely unhappy with the corrupt and inefficient NC Government. But there was only 3.5 per cent polling in the town.

Moreover, the victory of NC candidate Ali Mohammad Naik will certainly be questioned, especially when his own home town of Tral recorded only 2.6 per cent polling even as upper reaches in Noorabad recorded the heaviest polling of 40 per cent. "It was easy for the NCwallahs to manage booths in these areas because they are difficult to reach and it will take many days for the complaint to Congress general secretary Taj Mohiuddin.

There have been charges that Farooq has resorted to all his candidates at least in the Valley. The defeat of even a formidable candidate like Mufti will further erode faith of the people in the democratic process and thereby strengthen the position of separatist forces.


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