Anantnag’s Contestant Mix


As usual, the contest in the challenging Anantnag-Poonch constituency is between the major parties. But there are too many others, who may not get votes but want their voices to be heard, reports Umaima Reshi and Mujtaba Hussain

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Dilip Kumar Pandita with some of his friends in a temple premises.

On May 25, Jammu and Kashmir will witness polling in the Anantnag-Poonch constituency marking the conclusion of the Lok Sabha polls in the erstwhile state. There are 20 candidates in the fray and 18 30294 eligible voters will exercise their right at 2338 polling places.

The triangular contest is very much a two-party battle. It is Mehbooba Mufti of PDP versus Mian Altaf Ahmad Larvi of JKNC. However, Jammu and Kashmir Apani Party’s Zafar Iqbal Manhas may end up polling a respectable vote share as the BJP is also campaigning for him.

At the same time, however, there are lesser known 16 candidates in addition to Ghulam Nabi Azad’s candidate. They are on the list but not in the contest. SC Bose in Contest

The All India Forward Bloc (AIFB) is a party that Subhas Chandra Bose has founded.  It has fielded Javaid Ahmad Chowdhary from Anantnag. A resident of Surankote (Poonch), the 43-year-old had previously contested assembly elections in 2008 and 2014, unsuccessfully. He also contested the 2019 Lok Sabha election. “Since the delimitation commission merged our concerned halqa with the Anantnag, so I am contesting,” Choudhary said. “I also contested a byelection in 2020 and served as a Sarpanch in panchayat Middle-Marhote of Block Surankote.

Chowdhary claimed that AIFB exists in Kashmir as the party has been contesting polls since 2002. “Article 370 is done and dusted, and the traditional political parties are fooling people around it to garner votes. The real issues are the education reforms, railway connectivity, road connectivity, and electricity to all the villages of the constituency.”

Chowdhary said he is making people aware of their necessities rather than propounding reckless agenda by the JKNC, JKPDP, and JKAP. Asked if he could compete with the political stalwarts, Chowdhary said winning or losing is secondary. “I am trying to change the people’s perspective on development-based politics,” he said, insisting he is sponsoring the election at his own expense.

Admitting that the newly carved constituency is “disturbed” as he failed to reach many people across 18 assembly segments. He claimed he lacked adequate security cover.

A Taxi Driver

Sudarshan Singh is a taxi driver. He was with the BJP for almost 31 years from the days when it was called the Janta Party and had the symbol of a farmer within the Chakra. He left the BJP in 2020 and joined the NAUP.

Sudarshan Singh is a taxi driver and contested the Lok Sabha polls.

Insisting that he lacks resources to organise rallies and he believes politics is a “game of rascals and elites”. He said he is in deep pain over the social crimes in Jammu and Kashmir. However, it was unfair treatment towards the truck and taxi drivers that made him to contest. “The central government is pushing the transporters and Kashmir apple growers towards a downgrade,” he said, insisting Delhi is importing apples, apricots, and walnuts from America and other countries to “punish Kashmiri Muslims.”

Singh, a resident of Kulgam now living in Jammu, is a well-informed person on Jammu and Kashmir. He believes all Jammu and Kashmir parties including JKPDP, JKNC, and Apni Party are “in bed with the central government and BJP” and they have “mutually sold the assets of Jammu Kashmir for their cause and not for the society”.

BJP Defector

National Loktantrik Party (NLP)’s Imtiyaz Ahmad Najar is a resident of Lalnagar, Chanapora and a dropout at the undergraduate level. He said he started his political career as a ground worker for the BJP but joined the NLP back in 2023 because it is “relatively better off”. He said the overwhelming love moved him from the people of South Kashmir and is pained over their suffering and misery.

“I am asking people not to vote blindly and what they have delivered,” Najar said. “The parties are using delusional promises to people and always exploit them.” Asked how he is competing with stalwarts, Najar said he is contesting “against the dacoits” who give money to the people for votes. His idea is to win hearts, not the seat.

An RSS Panther

Arsheed Ahmad Lone has been a member of RSS Sanghatan since 2018 but is contesting on the National Panthers Party mandate. “My slogan is Haqq and insaaf,” he said. “Our party manifesto promises to provide job security, and employment, and to provide at least a healing touch to the mental and physical sufferings of the people, that they have gone through due to the political vacuum.” He claims to be self-financing the election with the help of “colleagues and relatives”. He is not fighting an election for the first time. “I also have the backing of RSS Sanghtahan, which will increase my voting percentage proportionately,” he said, insisting the people are fed up with the dynasty-driven politics.

For Refugees

Poonch resident, Ravinder Singh was a “social activist” before joining politics with the assistance of Farooq Abdullah. “There are people who have been in politics for ten to twenty years, so to establish myself, I had to pursue my path independently as not everyone paves the way for you,” Singh said. ”I wish to address the unresolved issues of the Hindu and Sikh refugees who were poured into Jammu and Kashmir, when displaced in 1947 and 1971conflict, ensuring their concerns are brought to the parliament.”

The Lawyer

Abdul Rouf Naik, a professional advocate currently pursuing a doctorate in Criminal Law, appears to have a deep understanding of the grievances of the youth. He has never been affiliated with any political party and funds his campaigns on his own by asking people to assist him as everything that he intends to do is for the betterment of the people.

“My main issue is to tackle unemployment. We have good education facilities, and students, both male and female, earn excellent degrees, yet they remain jobless,” Naik said. “There are doctorate holders who are sitting idle because they have no work. There is insufficient emphasis on women’s empowerment, and we want to address that as well. In the tourism industry, locals have no say; only those with significant financial resources can undertake construction projects and run businesses.”

The issues that are on his mind include: How can a society see professional degree holders or doctorate-level students becoming vendors or labourers? Is not it a disgrace?

A Pandit

Dilip Kumar Pandita, basically from Anantnag is living as a migrant in Nagrota, Jammu, is a Kashmiri Pandit, who says he is deeply committed to social justice and humanitarian causes. Contesting as an independent, his friends fund him.

The tragic killing of Dilip’s son in 2019 compelled him to enter politics, driven by the ache to ensure that no one else suffers the protracted torment of losing a loved one without seeing justice served. ”My focus will be on taking probe on unresolved killings or murder cases to ensure that no one has to endure the long wait for justice as I did,” Pandita said. “I will aim to facilitate the dignified return of displaced Kashmiri Pandits to Kashmir and foster the reunion of Kashmiri Muslims and Pandits. I wish to make merit fair in jobs and education.”

The Challenged One

An erstwhile contractor, Ali Mohammad Wani has been contesting all elections after he suffered an accident that rendered him incapable of routine work.

Contractor Ali Mohammad Wani, from Pulwama, became a Sarpanch in 2011. After militant threats, he was accommodated in Srinagar for security reasons. He contested the 2019 parliamentary elections and the DDC election as well. He later met an accident and was badly injured and has since then been partially disabled.

“Since that accident, I have been unable to do things as effectively as one does and while at home, I have experienced many obstacles associated with being disabled,” Wani said. “I feel bad for people who have congenitally or by any tragic event faced a disability, regardless of the nature of their disability. This was my main motivation to come out for those disabled people, who are on their own and struggle to earn a living or meet their basic needs in terms of income, education, food, reservation or access to necessary resources.”

Self-funded, Wani said while the government provided transport, there is no free fuel. “People like me are now helping me in whatever way they can. I have their encouragement,” he said. “I want improvement in the lives of people me.”


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