Srinagar, Apr 5: Bypolls will be held for two Lok Sabha seats (Srinagar and Anantnag) in Jammu and Kashmir in the second week of April. The by-elections to two Lok Sabha seats in Jammu and Kashmir will be an acid test for Mehbooba Mufti led People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and National Conference (NC) patron Farooq Abdullah. While Bharatiya Janata Party is in alliance with PDP in Jammu and Kashmir, Congress joined hands against NC after a bitter split in the run-up to the last assembly elections in December 2014.
From Srinagar, former chief minister Farooq Abdullah is the NC-Congress alliance’s candidate. Farooq Abdullah faces a challenge from PDP’s Nazir Ahmad Khan. The Lok Sabha seat fell vacant when PDP’s sitting MP Tariq Karra resigned from the party during the summer of unrest for aligning with the BJP. The PDP has fielded Mehbooba Mufti’s brother Tassaduq Mufti against Congress’ Ghulam Ahmad Mir from Anantnag. The seat fell vacant in April last year when Mehbooba Mufti resigned from the Lok Sabha to assume the Chief Minister’s office of the Jammu and Kashmir following her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s death.
Stakes are high for Mehbooba Mufti, who took over as the first woman chief minister of the Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir last year, and Farooq Abdullah whose National Conference is struggling to regain lost ground.
Mehbooba Mufti has been facing widespread criticism after violence erupted in Jammu and Kashmir following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in an encounter on July 8. The valley has been witnessing violent clashes between security forces and protesters. Over 10,000 people — 6,000 civilians and 4,000 security persons — have been injured in the ongoing cycle of violence that started on July 9. Hundreds lost eyesight due to the use of pellet guns.
The outcome of the by-election to two Anantnag and Srinagar could establish how much ground the PDP has lost after its “controversial” alliance with the BJP and also due to Mehbooba Mufti’s “mishandling” of the long unrest in the valley. The result will also decide the future of the NC-Congress alliance ahead of the 2020 assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir. Voting in Srinagar is due on April 9 and in Anantnag on April 12. The results will be announced on April 15.