Last week’s heavy snowfall seems to have affected electioneering in Kashmir. South Kashmir’s Anantnag and the prestigious Srinagar constituencies go to polls on April 24 and April 30 in the five phased Lok Sabha polls in the state.
The unexpected snowfall has hit the Valleyites hard. The assessment by the state government has put the death toll at 17 with around 2,000 houses being damaged.
Water logging in the capital posed a huge challenge for the state administration.
The Valley’s hinterland continues to remain snowbound. The snowfall has as such put a dampener on the election activity which is now expected to pick up only after the problems created by the snowfall are resolved. All the major political parties have announced their candidates either for all the six constituencies or some of them.
The major contest in the Valley will be between the ruling National Conference and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party. The Congress party has not fielded any candidate in the Valley as part of its seat sharing arrangement with NC.
Dr Farooq Abdullah, the NC patron, is contesting from the prestigious Srinagar constituency, while two sitting MP’s Dr Mehboob Beg and Sharief-ud-Din Shariq will contest from south Kashmir Anantnag and north Kashmir Baramulla respectively.
The PDP has fielded its president Mehbooba Mufti from Anantnag while former state finance minister Muzaffar Hussain Baigh and Tariq Hamid Karra are the party candidates from Baramulla and Srinagar.
In Jammu region, the Congress party has fielded Madan Lal Sharma from Jammu while the Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad is set to contest from Udhampur constituency.
For the Ladakh constituency, which goes to polls in the last phase on May 7, the Congress party is yet to field its candidate.
While it is difficult to predict winners and losers, it is largely agreed that the PDP has a clear edge over the NC in south Kashmir’s Anantnag constituency, while the NC's patron and strong candidate Dr Farooq Abdullah has an edge over the PDP rival in Srinagar.
In the Baramulla constituency it is going to be a close fight between the PDP and the NC with both saying they are confident of winning.
With the support of the NC, it is generally believed the Ladakh seat would fall into the Congress kitty, as the BJP has a clear edge over the Congress in the Jammu Lok Sabha seat.
If former chief minister and Union Health Minister Azad decides to stand from the Udhampur constituency, the balance of power would swing in favour of the Congress. Azad is politically very well entrenched in the Chenab valley districts of Kishtwar, Doda and Reasi.
Poll forecasts have generally gone off the mark in Jammu and Kashmir in the past as voters here keep their cards close to their chest. What makes the pollster’s job more difficult in the Valley is the unpredictable voter turnout.
Urban areas have been recording very low voter percentages ever since the armed violence began in the early 1990s, although the rural belts have been voting in comparatively larger numbers.
Image: A man walks on a road during heavy snowfall in Srinagar
Photographs: Danish Ismail/Reuters