It’s a ghost election in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama that saw the worst terror attack on CRPF soldiers in February this year. Pulwama is one of the four districts in the highly sensitive Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency, for which polling will be held in three phases from April 23.
Constantly under the shadow of the gun, no party has dared to hold any election rally in Pulwama, which votes on the May 6.
National Conference leader and former legislator Ghulam Mohiuddin Mir is the only mainstream politician who has not moved out of Pulwama because of fear of terrorists. Mr Mir has survived multiple terror attacks – two in the last two years in which two of his police guards were killed.
Mr Mir said the attacks were aimed at making him leave but he refused to be intimidated.
“Had I fled from this place and lived in Srinagar or Jammu, that is what they wanted to achieve by attacking me. I would have lost contact with people. Despite those attacks, I stood my ground and stayed here in my home. Stayed in touch with people,” Mr Mir said.
“People are being subjected to atrocities and if I help them in difficult times, tomorrow in elections I can go to them for votes,” he said.
Pitted against each other in Anantnag parliamentary constituency are three leaders – Mehbooba Mufti of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), National Conference candidate Justice Hasnain Masoodi (retired) and Congress state president GA Mir.
So far the Congress rally is the biggest election meeting by any party in Anantnag. The Congress said the protection of Jammu and Kashmir’s special constitutional status is a rallying point and people will eventually come out to vote.
“Congress party has reiterated its commitment that the Article 370 or Article 35A have been given to Jammu and Kashmir as part of its special constitutional status by the Constitution. It’s not a charity given to us,” said the party’s candidate GA Mir.
But locals say they have been let down by politicians. Mohammad Maqbool, the father of a killed terrorist, wants political engagement to resolve the Kashmir issue. He blamed local politicians for deceiving people.
“Educated youth are jobless. Common people, labourers and workers are being harassed. People have lost hope from these leaders. During elections they promise everything but once they get elected they shut their doors to the people,” said Mr Maqbool.
It’s for the first time in electoral history that elections for one parliament seat will be held in three phases. While security remains the biggest challenge in this south Kashmir constituency, on the ground, it’s disconnect with the people that has accentuated the problem in Pulwama.
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