Mehbooba Mufti to fight polls from Anantnag, PDP won’t contest in Jammu region

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Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti will contest Lok Sabha polls from the south Kashmir’s Anantnag seat. The party also decided on Saturday not to field candidates from Udhampur and Jammu seats to keep “secular vote” united.

PDP president Mehbooba Mufti announced the decision after a meeting of the PDP’s parliamentary board. On the decision not to contest the two seats, she said, people advised the party not to contest to make sure the “secular vote” is not divided.

“It (opposition alliance” is not happening the way it should have. But we made an effort tso that there is no loss to the secular vote and secular forces are strengthened,’” Mehbooba Mufti said.

She had won the seat in 2014 after defeating the National Conference candidate from South Kashmir. National Conference has already announced support to the Congress on the two seats of Jammu to take on the BJP.

The PDP leaders close to former CM said that Mehbooba Mufti agreed to contest from south Kashmir to strengthen the party and to test the party’s image. From Anantnag National Conference has already announced former justice (retired) Husnain Masoodi as its candidate and there is a possibility that Jammu Kashmir Congress unit president Ghulam Ahmad Mir could be Congress candidate.

In the recent meeting of top leaders, NC and Congress leaders decided to go for friendly contest at three seats. South Kashmir’s Anantnag seat will go to polls in three phases due to the security concerns on April, 23, 29 and May 6.

In 2014 elections Mehbooba Mufti emerged victorious from the seat. After she became chief minister in 2016, she contested assembly elections from Anantnag and vacated the Lok Sabha polls. The by-elections were scheduled to be held in 2017 but due to the situation in south Kashmir polls couldn’t be held. Mehbooba’s entry has made it a triangular contest in the seat.

The PDP has already nominated former trade union leader Abdul Qayoom Wani as its candidate from Baramulla. From Srinagar it has decided to field a Shia leader and party’s additional general secretary Agha Mohsin.

In 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the PDP has won three Valley seats and BJP emerged victorious from two Jammu seats and the one in Ladakh. However, after Tariq Karra who had won on PDP ticket from Srinagar resigned in 2016, the seat was won by NC president Farooq Abdullah in by-elections.

In the last Lok Sabha elections, the Congress and the NC had contested jointly and lost all three seats. This time, Congress and NC will be going for a friendly contest on three seats (Anantnag, Baramulla and Ladakh).

Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress president Ghulam Ahmad Mir said that PDP has now realised that people are angry with them for aligning with the BJP. “By past mistakes PDP leaders have realised their follies. Now what they have said it should be reflected on the ground and they should direct their voters clearly to support our candidates in Jammu and Udhampur.”

BJP state spokesman Altaf Thakur said that PDP has no base in Jammu and by not contesting from two seats of Jammu the party wants to save its image. “Even in Kashmir leaders have left them and it will make no problem to our candidates there,’’ he said.

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