Assembly polls 2014: No cakewalk for Lone in Sonawari

Sonawari:  As the people of Sonawari Constituency are all set to elect their representative on November 25, the traditional and ‘erstwhile’ strong party National Conference (NC) is seen crumbling in Sonawari Constituency in North Kashmir’s Bandipora district, the seat that the party retained in 1957, 1962, 1977, 1983, 2002, and 2008. The present National Conference MLA Muhammad Akbar Lone after getting elected for two terms at a stretch is finding it hard this time to make it the Legislative Assembly. Anti incumbency coupled with few more factors suggest that opposition Peoples Democratic Party has an edge this time while the party candidate Yasir Reshi, who stood third in 2002 Assembly elections has been leaving no stone unturned in luring the disgruntled workers of  his adversary and if the supporters of Reshi are to be believed, PDP is all set to register a victory this time.

Surprisingly majority of the voters with whom this reporter interacted claimed that National Conference candidate Muhammad Akbar Lone is nowhere in race but there is neck to neck contest between PDP and Congress party. Imtiyaz Ahmed Parrey, the son of infamous renegade Kuka Parrey who is contesting on Congress ticket has emerged as the biggest contender due to ‘positive role’ he played during the recent floods. “Parrey has a support base in Hajin, Mukdamyari, Shahgund, Sondanara, Preng and other areas.

Sonawari Constituency is comprising of two blocks Hajin and Sumbal. The majority of voters in Sumbal block are Shia who support both PDP and National Conference. Sonawari seat was bagged by National Conference for the first time in 1962 when party candidate Abdul Khaliq Bhat was elected unopposed. In 1967, NC failed to retain the seat and its candidate Gulla Rather was defeated by Congress candidate Abdul Aziz Rather. Abdul Aziz Rather retained the seat in 1972 and in 1977 Rather contested on National Conference ticket and defeated the present MLA Muhammad Akbar Lone who then contested on Peoples Conference ticket. In 1983, the seat was bagged by NC candidate Ghulam Rasool Bhat and again in 1987, NC won the Sonawari seat and this time the party candidate Muhammaduddin Kochey defeated his rival independent candidate Abdul Khaliq Haneef. Awami League candidate Muhammad Yousuf Parray alias Kukka Parrey defeated NC candidate Muhammad Akbar Lone in 1996 while in 2002 and 2008 the seat was retained by NC candidate Muhammad Akbar Lone.

The vote percentage of National Conference in last Assembly polls was 39.74. In 2008 Assembly elections Lone secured 20108 votes while the runner up independent candidate Abid Hussain Ansari was polled 7951 votes followed by then PDP candidate Yasir Reshi who stood third and secured only 6472 votes. “The situation this time is quite different from 2008. Time has changed. Peoples Democratic Party has managed to get the support of the people. Incumbent MLA Muhammad Akbar Lone did nothing for the common people but only provided benefits to a particular group on whom he is relying,” a PDP supporter, Bilal Ahmed told CNS while pasting party posters in Sadarkot Bala area of the Constituency. Hundreds of supporters present in and outside the house of PDP candidate located at Nesbal Sumbal told this reporter that the contest is between Congress and PDP while NC is nowhere in race. PDP has strong support base in Asham, Nesbal, Sadarkoot Bala, Shadipora, Dangarpora, Banyari, Turgam, Bon, Shahtulpore, Inderkot and other areas. “If getting elected I will dedicate myself for the people. I will surely work for them and will make every effort to redress the problems of the people of Sonawari Constituency,” PDP candidate Yasir Reshi said.

The native place of National Conference candidate Naidkhai presents a different scene however there are people who do not see eye to eye with the incumbent MLA. Large number of people mostly women were seen walking behind the cavalcade of Lone, singing traditional songs and raising pro-NC slogans. “I will vote for Lone Sahab and he is going to win anyway,” said a middle-aged woman to this reporter. Scores of youth covering their heads with National Conference red flags stood on the top of vehicles amid pro-NC slogans were seen motivating other youth to get into their vehicles. Lone addressed a rally at Asham and appealed people to vote for him for the development of area.

All the three candidates Muhammad Akbar Lone, Yasir Reshi and Imtiyaz Ahmed Parrey were busy in addressing election rallies that were undersized in nature. “Not too many people are attending these election rallies as they are dissatisfied with the political system,” said a youth at Hajin, the area where no activity with regard to elections is going on. The youth added that people have decided to boycott these elections but quickly added that he is not sure what will happen on the polling day.

An octogenarian Haji Muhammad Subhan told CNS that the area lacks in development. “In fact Muhammad Akbar Lone tried to develop the constituency but a lot is yet to be done. The roads are in shambles. Electricity problem still persists and so persists the unemployment problem,” he said and added that this time it will not be a cake walk for NC candidate Muhammad Akbar Lone.

Sajad Lone led Peoples Conference candidate for the same constituency, Quomuddin Shilwat whose chances are ‘grim’ feels that PDP has an edge but lacks leadership. “PDP candidate Yasir Reshi has not come off age in politics but he is a good businessman. Congress candidate Imtiyaz Parrey unlike his father is a law abiding person while NC candidate Muhammad Akbar Lone has groomed a gang of ‘goons’ comprising of former government gunmen,” he said adding that people will not vote on the basis of the past performance of their parties but on the personnel performance of the candidates,” Shilwati said and added that the votes that Lone is going to secure in these elections will be his personal votes and not the votes of National Conference. (CNS)

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