Pushing the Buttons

Irrespective of neglect and lack of development in twin constituencies of Shopian and Wachi, it is the elections that are being talked about. Shah Abbas and Sheikh Hilal spent a day in the area to gauge the public mood

A view of Shopian town
A view of Shopian town

After People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti was elected from Wachi assembly segment in 2008, she verbally nominated a couple of representatives there keeping in view her engagements as the party head. Both the representatives worked very hard especially among youth resulting in strengthening the party in Wachi to the level that local analysts presently put it at number one.

Shopian-CandidatesWhen the clouds of assembly elections started gathering on the skies of Kashmir, the people of Wachi too commenced to discuss the possible PDP candidate in the absence of MP Mehbooba. Even when the Toungri (rivulet) was roaring and damaging their orchards, the PDP well wishers were worried about the party. “Such a sheer concern shown by the people is our success,” says Mohsin Qayum, a young district office bearer of PDP.

As the phase of distributing mandates came closer,  many aspirants of PDP ticket appeared on the scene in Wachi. Mohammed Khalil Naik was one among them who had won from the segment in 2002 on CPI (M) mandate and later joined PDP. But PDP nominated Aijaz Ahmad Mir, son of late National Conference MLA Abdul Jabbar Mir. Naik is now contesting on Er Rashid’s AIP mandate.

However, Mehbooba’s absence from the contest is badly felt by many PDP well wishers in Wachi even then they are hopeful of their win. Even many of them tried to convince Mehbooba by some elders to leave the Parliament seat.

“Had Mehbooba Mufti contested herself there would have been zero competition for us,” Abdul Rahman, a PDP worker said, “still we are sure to win but the margin will be not so high.”

A law graduate young Ajaz is banking on a very active support from youth as they feel he can understand their problems.

But the ruling National Conference candidate Showkat Hussain Ganai is ready to give him a stiff competition. Ganai has successfully reached out to the people as MLC and he has succeeded in building strongholds in many hamlets.

Ganai’s followers too feel relaxed against Aijaz, whom they consider a weaker opponent as compared to Mehbooba. “Had Mehbooba herself decided to contest from here our chances were equal to zero but in the given situation our hopes of winning are very high,” said M Anwar, a NC worker. “I had a long association with late Jabbar Mir, but I decided not to betray the party after his death.”

He however confessed that majority of the party workers have extended their support to Aijaz Mir.

Mehbooba won from Wachi in 2008 securing 12810 against Ganai’s 4474 votes. She won by a winning margin of 8336 votes.

However Mehbooba is accused of not doing much for the constituency. Especially the ruling NC has time and again accused the PDP president of even skipping the district board meetings hence hampering the developmental works of Wachi. But the common voters are thrilled by the “change” slogan of the party. “Mehbooba could do very little for us but that was only because PDP was not in power. Now we are sure that PDP this time will reach the throne so we have decided to support the party candidate,” Abbas Mir, a local said.

It will be a bilateral competition in Wachi between PDP and NC however there are eight other candidates in the fray. They include Maroof Ahmad Wani of Congress, Tanvir Ahmad Mir of BJP, Zahoor Ahmad Rather of CPI (M), Mohd Yousuf Mir of JKNPP, Ahsan-Ul-Haq of JKPC, Mohd Yaqoob Malik of Republican Party, Mohammed Khalil Naik of AIP and Kulbushan Kaw (independent).

Shopian is another segment going to polls in the fourth phase of ongoing elections. In Shopian, both NC and PDP did not rely on the candidates who had represented them in 2008. Both the parties have in fact infuriated their district presidents who in retaliation have joined hands to fight NC and PDP together. NC once again preferred the old Sheikh family of Kachdora over Shabir Ahmad Kullay, and nominated Sheikh Mohammad Rafi while as PDP chose Mohammad Yousuf Bhat instead of the incumbent MLA Abdul Razaq Wagay and district president Mohammad Shafi banday. Rafi is the son of late NC leader Sheikh Mansoor who was assassinated in early nineties. Mansoor has represented Shopian thrice in 1977, 1983 and 1983 while as his son Rafi was elected in 1996 on NC ticket.

The apple town of South Kashmir is all set to witness a bilateral contest between National Conference and PDP represented by Rafi and Bhat respectively. Bhat, a local lawyer claims to have an association with PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed since eighties. “I am associated with Mufti Sahab since early eighties when he was PCCI chief. Mufti Sahab then joined Janta Dal and I was among his frontline associates who left Congress and joined Janta Dal,” said Bhat.

Accused of “persuading witnesses for false statement” in Aasia Neelofar alleged double rape and murder case by CBI, Bhat says that Shopian has been historically against NC because the party always ignored the area.

Shopian witnessed massive anti-NC agitation in 1978-79 spearheaded by the ‘All Parties Action Committee Shopian’ after Pulwama was given district status ignoring Shopian. Bhat was an active member of the Action Committee and led a delegation to Delhi to lobby for the demand of district. It was the same Action Committee which invited leaders like Karan Singh and Bhim Singh to the town and felicitated the anti-NC politicians with a warm welcome only to annoy the party.

National Conference however is of the opinion that people of Shopian have now realized that confronting NC has not yielded any positive results for them so this time it is again the turn of Sheikh to reach the legislature. “Rafi has every chance to beat his PDP rival as his old cadre has once again got activated,” Mohammad Aslam, a Kachdora resident told Kashmir Life.

But the local analysts believe that NC might suffer by the fact that its rebel Shabir Ahmad Kullay is in the contest as an independent. Kullay according to locals worked for NC since last six years but the same people are now ready to vote against the party. On the other hand Bhat of PDP is enjoying the support of incumbent MLA Wagay giving him an apparent edge over Kullay.

Wagay had won the seat in 2008 by a margin of 2798 votes securing 8006 votes against 5208 of Banday who then was contesting on Congress ticket.

Besides Bhat of PDP, Rafi of NC and Independent Kullay, there are seven more candidates contesting for Shopian seat. They include Javaid Ahmad Qadri of BJP, Abdul Rashid Pandit of CPI, Mushtaq Ahmad Khanday of Congress, Shah Fayaz Ahmed of NPP, Mohammad Yaqoob Rather of Republican Party, Tariq Ahmad Ahanger and Mohammed Yousuf Haji (independents).

Both Shopian and Wachi have followed a linear pattern in voting since many years now without throwing any surprises. Given the mood in these twin segments, it is unlikely to witness any departure from the usual in these southern belts.

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