North Kashmir seat sees low key campaigning (Constituency Spotlight)November 7th, 2008 - 11:47 am ICT by IANS
Sonawari (Jammu and Kashmir), Nov 7 (IANS) Owing to a boycott call by separatists, campaigning is yet to pick up in this north Kashmir constituency even though it goes to the polls Nov 17 and could influence voting in crucial areas like Srinagar and Ganderbal.Polls in Sonawari - a traditional stronghold of the National Conference - in Bandipora district are significant as they will kick off the seven-phase elections to the state’s 87-seat assembly.
Twenty-two candidates belonging to the National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Bahujan Samaj Party, Awami National Conference, Awami League and independents are contesting here.
The main contest, however, is between four candidates, Mohammad Akbar Lone of the National Conference, Yasir Reshi of the PDP, Imtiyaz Parray of the Awami League and Abid Ansari, an independent.
“The picture is not very clear in the constituency because there is nothing to be shown in favour of any candidate,” said Gulam Nabi Hurra, 67, a resident of the Naidkhai village in Sonawari.
“The difference between victory and defeat for the contestants will depend on whose pocket of influence gets a large voter turnout this time.”
The constituency has 84,726 voters, of whom 43,722 are men and 41,004 are women.
Most voters in this constituency are shying away from commenting about their participation in the elections because of the poll boycott campaign launched by separatists in the valley.
But it is believed a fairly respectable voter turnout will be witnessed Nov 17.
After all, in 2002, it had recorded over 56 percent polling - a figure that can be regarded as very high.
That year, the seat was bagged by Lone who had defeated Mohammad Yusuf Parray alias Kuka Parray of the Awami League by 12,758 votes. Lone had polled 25,687 votes while Parray had got 12,929 votes.
Parray, a known counter-insurgency leader, was killed by separatist guerrillas in 2003 and this time, his son, Imtiyaz Parray, has been fielded by the Awami League here.
This time 101 polling stations have been set up.
There is no visible overcurrent for any political party in the constituency, but some political activity has been seen of late in the pockets of influence of the candidates.
Lone organised a poll meeting last week which was also attended by National Conference president Omar Abdullah and some other senior party leaders. Abdullah himself is contesting from Ganderbal.
Even as large public rallies have not been held anywhere in the constituency, small village level meetings of party supporters are taking place throughout the constituency these days.
These poll campaign meetings are mainly being organised by the National Conference, the PDP, the Awami League and the independent candidate, Abid Ansari, who is the younger brother of senior Shia leader Maulvi Iftekhar Hussain Ansari.
There are about 15,000 Shia Muslim voters in the constituency and Ansari is focusing his attention on this chunk of voters.