Stage Set for Srinagar By-poll

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Srinagar: The stage is set for Srinagar by-polls on Sunday that will decide the fate of former Chief Minister and National Conference candidate Dr Farooq Abdullah who is seeking his mandate to Indian Parliament after tasting defeat at the hands of the then PDP candidate Tariq Hamid Karra by a big margin in the 2014 Parliament elections.

The by-polls for the seat were necessitated following the resignation of Karra from PDP and subsequently from the parliament. Karra who recently joined Congress party is now backing Farooq Abdullah.

National Conference is confident that Farooq Abdullah will bag the seat this time. Except once, he has never lost any Parliament or Assembly election in his three decade long political career.

   Farooq Abdullah this time is locking horns with previous Congress leader who recently joined PDP, Nazir Ahmed Khan. Khan contested Assembly elections from Beerwah constituency on Congress ticket in 2014 and lost to his rival Omar Abdullah with a thin margin.

Though there are nine candidates in the fray in the constituency, the main contest will indeed be between Dr Abdullah and Khan.

Seven other independent candidates including Bikram Singh, Chetan Sharma, Sajad Reshi, Ghulam Hasan Dar, Farooq Ahmed Dar, Me’raj Khurshid Malik and Mirza Sajad Hussain Beigh are also in the fray. No polling station in Srinagar and Budgam have been categorized as normal by the Election Commission.

Srinagar constituency is spread over three districts of Budgam, Ganderbal and Srinagar and has around 13.73 lakh electorate.

The constituency comprises of 15 Assembly segments of Kangan, Ganderbal, Hazratbal, Zadibal, Eidgah, Khanyar, Habbakadal, Amirakadal, Sonwar, Batamaloo, Chadoora, Budgam, Beerwah, Khansahab and Charar-i-Sharif.

Among the 15 assembly segments seven are represented by PDP, seven by NC and one PDF.

“Based on threat perception by intelligence agencies and security forces, the EC has categorised most of the polling stations as ‘hyper sensitive’ and ‘sensitive,” an official said.

Police and paramilitary forces are being deployed in sufficient strength to secure the polling stations and voters. Fearing protests and violence, police have launched a crackdown in different parts and many youth have been rounded up and lodged in different police stations. Voting will begin at 7 a.m. and end at 5 p.m.

Srinagar seat was won by Congress in 1996 after NC did not put up any candidate when militancy was at its peak in the valley while in 2014 PDP candidate Tariq Hamid Karra got elected from the constituency after defeating NC president Dr Farooq Abdullah by a margin of about 50,000 votes.

Karra resigned from the seat and PDP before joining Congress, which has announced to support the NC candidate after the two parties entered into an alliance.

BJP has not put up any candidate in bypoll in Srinagar and Anantnag constituencies and is backing alliance partner PDP.

NC president Dr Abdullah, joined by his son also a former chief minister and working president of the party Omar Abdullah, have addressing election rallies and other meetings in different parts of the constituency.

Dr Abdullah and Omar Abdullah besides other NC leaders alleged that BJP was using PDP as a ‘Trojan Horse’ in the state.

However, the PDP leaders, including party president Mehbooba Mufti, have denied these allegations, saying that NC always sold the interests of people of Kashmir for their self interest.

The PDP leaders during their campaigning highlighted the reopening of Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and other roads and advocated for reopening of more cross-Line of Control (LoC) roads.

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