The Lilliput’s In Contest


Sajid Raina offers a quick introduction to a few candidates from north Kashmir Baramulla who are in a contest but not for the victory

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An independent candidate from Baramulla, Muzaffar Hussain Dar while campiagning in a village.

In the North Kashmir Baramulla Lok Sabha berth, 22 candidates are in the fray. Initially, it was seen as a contest between Omar Abdullah and Sajad Lone.

After Engineer Rasheed threw his hat in the ring, the contest electrified. The major players may be drawing huge crowds but many other candidates are fighting the election and may not win. They are interesting characters with good stories of ambition and desperation for attention.

After Two Parties

Mehrajuddin Najar, a Sonawari (Bandipora) resident, has been with two parties before filing his independent papers. A former BJP member, he was jailed in 2020 for around a year. He is not offering any details about the reason for his jail yatra.

In his poll affidavit, Najar is deconstructed. In 2019, he had been booked under Section 498A, which protects women from cruelty by their husbands or in-laws, and Section 323 IPC which pertains to the offence of voluntarily causing hurt to another person. Besides, he was charged under Sections 8/22 of the NDPS Act.

“I was considered a high-profile leader advocating for the rights of the people, which led to my imprisonment,” Najar claimed.

After moving out of jail, Najar claimed he started “working for the welfare of the people”. In February 2024, he joined Altaf Bukhari’s Apni Party. However, when Bukhari decided to support Sajad Lone, Najar changed his mind and decided to contest independently. Soon he was expelled from the Apni Party.

“You know money matters these days,” said Najar, when asked about his low-key local campaign, insisting he has mentioned Rs 10,000 as his total wealth in his poll affidavit.”Still, I am giving my best in the campaign, and the people are supporting me very well.”

A Store Owner

Known primarily for his Kirana store in the Pahlipora Kosumbagah area of Bandipora, Hilal Ahmad Wagay, 35, is contesting polls. He has almost closed his shop. In his affidavit, he has revealed his association with the Anarakshit Samaj Party (ASP), which apparently exists for him only.

However, he told this reporter that he has been associated with the BJP and RSS for years now. “I am busy with the election campaign,” he said on the phone, “We will win.” Then he snapped the call.

Residents who know Wagay said they respect him for running a good provision store but not as a politician. With assets totalling Rs 30,548, Wagay has declared that he has studied up to the fifth primary.

An Electrician

Peerzada Mudasir Rashid Shah, a 36-year-old electrician from the scenic Lolab Valley is also in the fray. Affiliated with the Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party, is a graduate, with a degree he acquired in 2019.

A year later, Shah assumed the role of district youth president for the Panthers Party, and later in 2022, he was elevated to the position of district president of the party that is struggling to exist.

Shafeeqa Begum, an independent candidate from Baramulla Lok Sabha constituency campaigning in a village.

“Once the party recognised my dedication and achievements, they promoted me to district president,” Shah said. “Neither was I coerced nor do I have any backing, but I genuinely aspire to serve my people. I must step forward, and I hope the people will make a wise decision.”

Another Shah

Khursheed Ahmad Shah, 44, lives in Budgam’s Beerwa area. Associated with the Rashtriya Jankranti Party, Shah has dropped out of Government High School Kundoora in ninth standard. He is a farmer with assets worth Rs 25 lakh.

Shah said he was associated with the Janata Dal (United) for 12 years. He later left the party and joined the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference, where he stayed for around six months before finally gaining entry into the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He claims he still is a member of the party.

“When the BJP chose not to field candidates in Kashmir, the Rashtriya Jankranti Party gave me the mandate, and that’s why I’m in the race,” he said.


Shabir Ahmad Dar, 43, is a businessman hailing from Khanmoni Chowk, Bemina and is running as an independent candidate. He is a Post Graduate of Commerce from IGNOU in June 2015.

Dar could not pick up the phone despite repeated attempts. Residents who claimed they knew him said he lacked any political influence locally.

“I do not know what compelled him to contest elections,” one resident, who wishes to stay anonymous, said. “These candidates seem to serve as proxies for other parties, aiming to divide votes.”

A Confident Candidate

Farooq Ahmad Bhat, 44, from Khanyar, Srinagar, is confident that he will contest regardless of winning or losing.

“I have always worked for the well-being of society. Like the other candidates in the race, I too believe in letting the people decide whom they will vote for,” Bhat said.

Bhat stopped pursuing education after he dropped out from Government High School Satho Barabarshah Srinagar in 1996, in the eighth class. Later, he became a professional “social activist” and he declared his assets at Rs 151 lakh.

Azad’s Rebel

Firdous Ahmad Bhat, 37, lives in Beerwah. He is unemployed despite holding a post-graduation in Public Administration.

Bhat revealed he entered politics three years ago, initially aligning with Azad during his tenure in the Congress. After Azad exited from Congress, Bhat stayed loyal and served as a state spokesperson. Almost three months ago, he parted ways with the Azad Party and decided to become an independent candidate.

“We independent candidates are being deprived of every facility, unlike other candidates. However, the administration is treating me fairly,” Bhat said. “Unfortunately, the administration seems to prioritise leaders from traditional parties over new faces like us. Nonetheless, we are receiving strong support from the people.”

Unknown At Home

Mohammad Sutan Ganaie, 57, hails from Onagam (Bandipora). A businessman, he deals in shawls and carpets. However, he has declared his assets at only Rs 65.

In his native village, Ganaie is relatively unknown. “Even voters who have participated in two elections now claim they don’t know the candidate but have heard that he’s been residing in Srinagar for decades.” Sameer Ahmad, a 32-year-old from Onagam village, said.

Gulmarg’s Ameer

Syed Ameer Suhail, 33, is a resident of the Kunzer area of Gulmarg. A postgraduate in Commerce from IGNOU since 2015, he has been a sarpanch of Dhobiwan village.

Interestingly, he is being recognised by people. Some even praise him. They say he has been helpful always. “Whenever we approached him during any problem, he was always at the forefront, ready to solve and assist us,” said Muneer Khan, a resident.

The Women Contenders

There are various women candidates too. Suraiya Nissar is one of them. A resident of Eidgah in Srinagar, the homemaker’s spouse is into the readymade garment business. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree, earned in the year 2010 from the University of Kashmir

Shafeeqa Begum, 54, is another candidate. A resident of Handwara, this unlettered homemaker wife of a labourer has termed social work as her “profession”.

A Son’s Campaign

Abrar Rasheed, 23, son of jailed lawmaker, Engineer Rasheed is making most of the news from north Kashmir. A student and not a politician, party leaders said circumstances have thrust upon him the role of an “accidental politician” as he campaigns for his father’s release.

He has been in custody since August 2019.

Abrar Rasheed, son of Kashmir lawmaker, Engineer Rasheed

“After my father’s nomination was accepted, we started the election campaign on May 7, and I wasn’t expecting such an overwhelming response,” Abrar said.  “I was expecting that my father would be released for the election campaign, as was the case with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, but that didn’t happen. This compelled me to take on the burden of campaigning on my shoulders. Even though my father had always kept me away from politics, along with my whole family, it all happened suddenly, so I’m campaigning for him now.”

Abrar’s campaign is people-driven. Everywhere he goes, huge crowds get around. Jail Ka Badla Vote Sa Lenga (We will seek revenge for jail through votes) is the most popular slogan.

Admitted resources and infrastructure issues, Abrar said all posters are printed by the people. “I have only one car for campaigning, but others contribute their vehicles. We lack funds; it’s the people’s support that sustains us,” he said. Interestingly, he has no manifesto. He sees the election will get his father free. “The vote cast today is for the innocent Engineer Rashid, and it has the power to send him to the Indian parliament and secure his release.”


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