PDP announces candidates in all 3 LS seats in Kashmir; Mufti to contest from Anantnag-Rajouri

Waheed Para will contest from the Srinagar-Pulwama

Mehbooba Mufti | PTI Mehbooba Mufti | PTI

Former chief minister and People’s Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti will contest the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls from Anantnag-Rajouri constituency, the party announced on Sunday. 

The announcement was made by senior PDP leader and former minister Sartaj Madni during a press briefing in Srinagar.

He announced that party’s youth president Waheed Para would contest from the Srinagar-Pulwama constituency, while former Rajya Sabha MP Fayaz Mir, who recently rejoined the party, would be its candidate from the Baramulla constituency.

Mufti will face off against National Conference’s Mian Altaf and DPAP chairman Ghulam Nabi Azad in the Anantnag-Rajouri constituency. Meanwhile, the BJP and other regional parties are yet to announce their candidates for this seat. 

Mir will compete against People’s Conference chairman Sajad Lone and incarcerated AIP chief Engineer Rasheed in the Baramulla Lok Sabha seat. As of now, the National Conference, the BJP, and other regional parties have not disclosed their candidates for this constituency.

The PDP's decision to field candidates from all three Lok Sabha seats in Kashmir came days after NC vice president Omar Abdullah suggested that the PDP might not field any candidate against the NC in Kashmir. Omar cited the recent rally held by the INDIA bloc in Delhi, where Mufti shared stage with NC president Farooq Abdullah, reaffirming PDP's allegiance to the alliance. He urged the media to abstain from sowing discord between the two parties.

Responding to Omar’s statement, Mufti expressed disappointment, stating that the NC hadn’t left any door open for them. She noted that Omar's remarks hurt her party workers, who were not in favor of supporting the NC at this juncture.

The Democratic Azad Party had announced that its chief Ghulam Nabi Azad would contest from Anantnag-Rajouri. The entry of the PDP into the fray has intensified the contest in Kashmir, particularly in the Anantnag-Rajouri constituency, as south Kashmir, including Anantnag, Shopian, Pulwama, and Kulgam, is considered a PDP territory. The PDP also enjoys goodwill among the tribal communities of Rajouri and Poonch, especially Gujjars.

Observers believe that a clash between the NC and the PDP in the Anantnag-Rajouri constituency, with Azad and the J&K Apni Party also in the race, will benefit the BJP due to the division of votes. The BJP is banking on the Pahari community of Rajouri-Poonch, who has been granted Schedule Tribe (ST) status by the Centre. 

It also remains to be seen whom the PDP will nominate from the constituency. As an INDIA alliance member, the PDP had requested the NC not to field any candidate from Anantnag-Rajouri. However, the NC insisted on seat-sharing only in seats won by the BJP, not INDIA alliance members, in the last Lok Sabha polls.

With both the NC and the PDP announcing to contest all Lok Sabha seats in Kashmir, the INDIA alliance in Kashmir has unraveled, though both parties are supporting the Congress on two seats in Jammu.

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