Phase-IV: Next Govt. Depends On Today's Vote

13 December 2014
Kashmir Observer


Srinagar: Stage is set for the fourth round of the five phased assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday for the 18 constituencies, and this phase may well decide who will be the dominant player in the Kashmir Valley - the ruling National Conference or the PDP. As many as 14.73 lakh voters will get to decide the fate of 182 candidates, including political heavyweights, Omar Abdullah and Mufti Mohammad Sayeed the chief ministerial aspirants from National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party, at 1,890 polling stations in four districts of the state. Of the 18 seats, eight are in Srinagar district, six in Anantnag, two in Shopian and two in Samba district of Jammu region. All eyes however will be on the eight constituencies of Srinagar where a low turn-out due to boycott factor since 1996 had been a boon to National Conference so far. For the ruling National Conference it is a do or die situation this time as this phase holds the key to its bid to retain the power in the state. Among the 28 seats NC won in 2008 Assembly elections, nine seats are going to polls in the fourth phase. NC holds all eight seats of Srinagar district. Omar Abdullah, who relinquished his family constituency of Ganderbal, is contesting from Sonwar in Srinagar this time. However, analysts say the NC leadership is worried about the fate of Omar in Sonawar as he faces a tough fight from PDP candidate Ashraf Mir. Omar is also trying his luck from Beerwah, which went to polls in the third phase on December 9. Omar's father and NC patron Farooq Abdullah had won Sonwar seat in the last Assembly elections in 2008 by just 94 votes. On the other hand, Opposition PDP patron and former chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed is seeking re-election from Anantnag constituency in south Kashmir. Mufti is in comfortable position as his main rival and senior NC leader Mehboob Beg withdrew from the contest and offered unconditional support to the PDP ahead of elections. Even though PDP has been strong only in south and some pockets of north Kashmir valley, the party is seeking to change that by making a strong push in Srinagar, which has been a NC bastion. Among the other ministers trying their luck in this phase is NC veteran and Rural Development Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar, who is seeking re-election for the sixth time from Khanyar constituency. Sagar is up against former trade union leader and PDP candidate Khursheed Alam. Despite the facts that Sagar has not lost this seat since 1983, it will be an uphill task for him to retain this seat this time following anger against NC government among the people. Other prominent candidates who are in fray include Assembly Speaker Mubarak Gul, Omar's close confidante Nasir Aslam Wani, Congress ministers Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed and Ghulam Ahmad Mir, and PDP's Abdul Rehman Veeri and Altaf Bukhari. The BJP, which is making its first serious bid for power in Jammu and Kashmir, has come out all guns blazing to make its presence felt in the Valley. The party is trying to make an inroad into Kashmir valley, as it can pave the way for the saffron party to accomplish its 'Mission 44-plus' - a feat that will enable it to form a government in India's only Muslim-majority state. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah, Union Minister of State Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, cricketer-turned politician Navjot Singh Sidhu and Bollywood actor and party MP Vinod Khanna campaigned for BJP candidates in the seats going to polls in the fourth phase. Omar, working president of the NC, was the only star campaigner for his party in the absence of his father and former chief minister Farooq Abdullah, who is undergoing medical treatment in London. Omar crisscrossed the four districts to campaign for his party candidates including himself. PDP's Sayeed and party president Mehbooba Mufti also campaigned for their party candidates. Of the 18 seats going to polls tomorrow, the ruling NC had won nine in 2008 while the opposition PDP bagged six seats. Congress had won two seats while National Panthers Party clinched the Samba seat in Jammu region. With the fourth phase, the polling process will come to an end in Kashmir Valley as all the 20 seats going to polls in the fifth and the last phase on December 20 are in Jammu region.