No poll fever in Doda, just low-key campaigning
4 October 2002
The Indian Express
Doda: Campaigning in this militancy-torn Doda district of Jammu and Kashmir, which has seen large scale violence in the run up to the polls, remains a low-key affair. With only three days left for the campaigning to end, candidates are trying to reach out to the electorate through street corner gatherings and odd public meetings. The 10 Assembly hopefuls, including Minister of State for Home Khalid Najeeb Sohrawardy, are nevertheless competing with one another to make tall promises. Though most of the political parties have fielded their candidates from the constituency, top national leaders are yet to visit the district to garner support. The only star campaigners have been National Conference president and Union minister Omar Abdullah, Union Minister Chaman Lal Gupta, AICC general secretary and Jammu and Kashmir Congress president Ghulam Nabi Azad and People''s Democratic Party leaders Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Mehbooba Sayeed. The National Conference campaign is centred around new vision and development under the leadership of Omar Abdullah while Congress and PDP leaders are highlighting alleged misrule by the Farooq Abdullah- led NC government and promising to bring peace to the militancy- infested state. Doda constituency has mostly remained with the NC with its nominees representing the seat four out of seven times. The Congress represented the seat twice and Janata Party once. Khalid Najeeb Sohrawardy was elected from Doda in the April 1997 by-polls when the seat fell vacant following the death of his father and veteran leader Maulana Attaullah Suhrawardy. The prospects of Sohrawardy retaining the seat may be affected this time due to the anti-incumbency factor and People''s Democratic Party candidate Ghulam Qadir Wani posing a tough challenge. Others in the fray are Mukand Ram of the Congress, Satpal of Panthers Party, Sawami Raj of BJP, Mohammad Iqbal Wani of JD-U, Sheshi Kumar and three independents Abdul Majeed Wani, Mohd Iqbal Wani and Kuldeep Singh Jaral. An electorate of 70,278, including 30,360 females, are eligible to exercise their franchise at 92 polling stations, 55 of which have been classified as hyper-sensitive and 37 as sensitive. Amid apprehensions of militants attempting to disrupt the poll process, security has been beefed up in the constituency with deployment of additional forces. Security forces are also working to sanitise the areas, particularly the far-flung villages.