Constituency profile: Can Pulwama throw a surprise?

Pulwama: As the battle for state’s assembly polls intensifies among different political parties, guessing a winner in Pulwama constituency has become a difficult task as the ruling National Conference (NC) and opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), are locked in a battle with Third Front candidate.

In the last two terms the constituency has been represented by the PDP legislator Mohammad Khalil Bandh who will be challenged by NC’s Rajjya Sabha MP Ghulam Nabi Ratanpuri. But in the battle between NC and PDP, Third Front candidate Abdul Qayoom Mir may emerge as winner.

People pin their hope on new, young and educated faces who they think will develop the neglected assembly segment on modern lines, and take it out of its backwardness. Across the 94 revenue villages from Wanpora to Dogripora in the constituency including the district headquarters, people are angry with both NC and PDP.

Although known for his sober nature, the incumbent MLA is being described as “incompetent” by his own supporters, the party’s old and staunch workers, and people across the constituency. Majority of the senior workers are disgruntled with him and this resentment could turn the tide against him in the coming polls.

“Bandh sahab has been an MLA for the last 12 years and he was a minister in PDP-Congress Government in 2008, too. But due to his incompetence he has not done anything remarkable for the constituency, not even for his supporters,” said a senior party worker, who did not want to be identified.

After PDP declared him as their candidate for the third term, fissures developed among the party’s workers over supporting him. Bandh has not held any workers’ convention after his candidature was announced.  And he has not succeeded in mobilizing and attracting youth into the party fold in the last over a decade.

Moreover, the new, young entrants into the party from the constituency have further opened flood-gates for him. The party’s supporters had anticipated that their leadership would announce a new candidate to contest the assembly election but to their dismay it didn’t happen.

“The decision (to field a new candidate) would have been a turning point for us to motivate the young and educated electorate to vote in the elections. In nutshell the party workers are not happy with the decision,” he said adding this could make our winning chances thin.

The young supporters of the party are annoyed with Bandh and are likely not to rally for him. The workers also blame the sitting MLA of not visiting the constituency during his tenure to built mass contact with the people.

Equally, NC’s candidate, Ratanpuri too is on a sticky wicket, and does not have a firm grip on the electorate. His rumblings and swerving political stand against his own party during the last five year has left the NC’s old supporters annoyed.

Ratanpuri’s calling Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani tallest than NC founder Sheikh Abdullah has the party’s staunch supporters training guns against him, and doubt his loyalty for the party. People believe that this has also cast the constituency on development as the party top brass including Omar Abdullah openly flayed him and asked him to leave the party.

And the party leadership maintained distance from him. “Since NC was in power, Ratanpuri could have brought lot of funds and development for the whole of Pulwama district besides the constituency,” said Farooq Ahmad Wani, a resident of the Pulwama town.

“Due to his faltering political character, Ratanpuri has not won any new support from the people in the area, particularly among youth. Only those people are pretending to support him whom he had allotted contracts,” he alleged.

The old, staunch workers have stayed aloof from him as they accused him of neglecting them. They were backing the candidature of former NC minister Bashir Ahmad Nengroo, but to their disappointment the latter lost in the fray to contest on NC ticket.

People also accuse Ratanpuri of making “irrational and utopian” statements in the very few meetings he has held at his party office in the district. In the last over five years, he has not held a single mass rally to show his support rising. The floods too have cast shadow over their leadership and role as legislators.

Since whole Pulwama district was severely damaged in the recent floods, both the NC and PDP leaders are being accused of neglecting the flood affected people in relief and rehabilitation. “As the district is politically dead due to incompetent leadership, we will support new, young, and literate faces in the polls,” said Javaid Ahmad, a youth in Ratnipora village which has considerable registered young voters, and has highest number of electorate.

Among the new faces in the fray that have attracted young and old equally is the Peoples Democratic Front’s state General Secretary Abdul Qayoom Mir, from Ratnipora village. Mir, a law graduate from Kashmir University, is contesting for the second time on Hakim Yasin’s PDF ticket and could this time throw a surprise for both PDP and NC.

Political analysts say Mir has generated interest among the people in the constituency by his door to door meetings with people and his mass contact programme during the last five years. His realistic speeches, statements are in tune with the demands and aspirations of the people, they said, adding his ability as a political leader could get the constituency out of the political death that it has been seeing from the last six decades.

Mir’s wining chances are multiplied by the emergence of Third Front, which is an amalgam of number of smaller parties like M Y Tarigami’s CPI (M), Ghulam Hassan Mir’s DP (N), and Engineer Rashid’s Awami Itehad Party.

“People have taken Mir seriously and this time he will surprise all, including his political opponents,” they claim.

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