SRINAGAR A three phase election has never been held in a single constituency hitherto anywhere, let alone Jammu and Kashmir. The dubious feat was not achieved even during the height of militancy in the state.
However the unprecedented move has been announced by the Election Commission for the Anantnag parliamentary seat which sprawls over four south Kashmir districts: Anantnag, Shopian, Kulgam and Pulwama.
Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said, “We will have to carry out three phases of election for just one constituency of Anantnag… so you can imagine how complicated it is.”
The south Kashmir region has been the nerve centre of pro-independence politics during and after the 2016 summer agitation that followed killing of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani.
When the present phase of the freedom movement began in 1989, only one candidateMohamad Shafi Bhat of the National Conferencedared contest from the Srinagar parliamentary seat in the face of a militant boycott call. He therefore won uncontested.
There was more than one candidate each in the two other Valley constituencies, Anantnag and Baramulla, though. Even at that time, each seat voted in a single phase.
Mehbooba Mufti was elected from Anantnag constituency in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and was seen as a stronghold of her Peoples Democratic Party until it joined hands with the BJP to form the government in 2015.
Mehbooba vacated her parliamentary seat when she became chief minister following the death of her father, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, in early 2016. No by-election could be held for the seat after that because of the security situation. The By-elections had been scheduled in May 2017 but were deferred after unprecedented poll violence in Srinagar left nine people dead and scores injured. The turnout was an abysmal 7 per cent.
For the first time in nearly three decades the polls had to be cancelled due to poor response and bad law and order situation.
Political parties in Jammu and Kashmir have been seeking state elections after a series of controversial decisions by the government since the state was placed under Governor’s Rule in November five months after the ruling alliance split.