Engineer Rasheed: Will Squeaky Wheel Get The Grease? 

The large voter turn out in Baramulla Lok Sabha constituency has surprised the political observers. Here the players in the battle ground were many, but eyes were focused on few. In this mega quadrant the real fight was between parties like National Conference, People’s Democratic Party, People’s Conference and the firebrand politician Mr. Engineer Rasheed. 

After more than a decade long political career, Engineer Rasheed is not  restricted to his constituency of Langet in Kupwara anymore. He has been the strong advocate of referendum (Rai Shumari) for Kashmir resolution. This time we witnessed a hyperactive and more proficient politician in him. He held rallies across the length and breadth of the constituency and traversed almost every part of North Kashmir to motivate people to give him one chance. The way he pulled crowds gave sleepless nights to his rivals.

The entry of Engineer Rasheed in poll fray altered the electoral and political dynamics of Kashmir. While all Hurriyat factions advised people to stay away from elections to deprive New Delhi of propaganda opportunity to showcase these elections as an alternative to plebiscite, Engineer Rasheed went like a squeak and defied all curbs and eventually prompted the people to vote for him. 

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In the backdrop of political developments of the past five years, it was expected that this time Kashmir will witness lowest turnout boycott or no boycott by Hurriyat. Past five years have been traumatic for Kashmir as killings due to military operations peaked. The BJP repeatedly tried to assault the special status of Kashmir mobilising people against it cutting across political and ideological barriers. In North Kashmir despite all this when people still turned out to vote it was one-man’s tireless efforts. And observers attribute this to Engineer Rasheed’s exclusive outreach to the people. 

He convinced people to  vote for him. He entrusted them of their safety, to strengthen their cause, to lessen their miseries. He restored back peoples glimmering hope on democratic institution of elections. 
Some would say the way Mr Rasheed changed the narrative during this campaigning period, eventually influenced people to exercise their right to vote and by that he helped Delhi debunk Hurriyat ideology of resistance and helped  strengthen the Indian narrative. 

There are multiple dimensions as to how Kashmiris interpret the elections. Some call it political maturity. They see it as a befitting strategy to avoid having a party in power that cares too hoots about the sensibilities of Kashmir and Kashmiris. Those who vote believe that if Kashmiris don’t vote, then the elected representatives will be more pro-Delhi and less pro-Kashmiri people. Many see it as political leverage in negotiating for issues such as an immediate and urgent repeal of draconian laws in vogue in Kashmir and the release of youth who have been booked under these laws. Some consider it important for a long-term political solution to the conflict, which they think is only possible through consistent dialogue and negotiation with New Delhi.

The pro-Kashmir stance of Mr Engineer Rasheed actually mobilised people to join him in the electoral battle. A bitter critic of New Delhi, Rasheed had been launching scathing attacks on Indian establishments from the very beginning. He talks about human rights violations, custodial deaths and the plight of people like no other unionist politician. By his attire and attitude he induces sense of relief and simplicity with commoners who have been used to high flying politicians.  

The reason behind such openness is that “He has nothing to loose in electoral field and whatever he speaks actually gets him closer to the people”. May be it’s known to him that he will never grab a chance to become a chief minister at least in foreseeable future. So, he knows he won’t have to work with the Delhi establishment as for that one needs to be in sync with the rules of the game like his competitors.  Engineer Rasheed however appears desperate to go to Parliament. If he succeeds it is difficult to fathom how different he will be than others before him. What needs to be seen is whether Engineer Rasheed only rattles the apple cart of the unionist parties or surprises everyone by stealing victory from his otherwise well entrenched rivals. Too early to judge if this squeaky wheel will get the grease. 
 

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