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Campaigning yet to pick up in J&K

First of the seven phase polls for 10 segments (including three each in Kashmir and Jammu and four in Ladakh) is due on November 17 but apparently there seems to be no campaigning.

, ET Bureau|
Oct 30, 2008, 05.53 AM IST
SRINAGAR: With most of the organising cells of the poll-boycott lobby either hiding or behind bars, governor���s administration has created a lot of space for the unionists to campaign. First of the seven phase polls for 10 segments (including three each in Kashmir and Jammu and four in Ladakh) is due on November 17 but apparently there seems to be no campaigning.

���Right now, the political parties are busy filing nominations and once the scrutiny is over, the activity will start���, one of the officials in state���s election office said. All the political parties have announced mandates and some of them have actually filed the papers.

The crackdown on separatists continues. Today police detained the second acting chairman of the hawkish Hurriyat leaving barely the peon of its office out besides an elusive lawyer.

NC president Omar Abdullah had visited Sonawari last week but it triggered a lot of heat and dust and the belt is still smoldering. PDP that formally announced participation on Tuesday is yet to showcase its strength.

The grand man of Kashmir politics Ghulam Mohammad Shah, who triggered the fall of his brother-in-law Dr Farooq Abdullah���s government in 1984, is again in action. Despite being aged and frail, he underwent a head surgery recently; he managed a gathering on Tuesday in the premises of his Srinagar mansion.

���Thank God, we have got candle as a symbol���, Shah told the gathering comprising villagers from various south Kashmir. ���This means light, a light that will help us to resolve Kashmir issue���. His party Awami National Conference (that has never won a single seat in any contest), it is interesting to mention here, is toying with the idea of fielding Mrs Khalida Shah on all the seats where her brother Dr Farooq contests.

Almost all the political parties, especially Kashmir centric ones, have triggered a new debate over relevance of elections to the resolution of Kashmir issue. NC, off late, has been telling that assembly elections are for local governance and Kashmir issue should not be associated with it. However, PDP has taken a totally different stand.

It has divided its poll manifesto into two sections, the first talking about self-rule ��� its prescription for solving Kashmir issue, and the other section offering its idea of governance, a plain repackaging of what it failed to deliver in its three years of rule.

Apart from NC and PDP, a number of parties including BSP, PDF and many others are fielding candidates in Kashmir. Even Panthers Party that has its basis in Jammu���s Udhampur belt is fielding candidates ��� mostly former militants who were released from jails with help of Bhim Singh. For Bandipore, for instance, Bhim Singh has nominated Mohammad Iqbal Jan ��� currently behind bars in Tihar jail ��� as Panthers Party candidate.

Unlike Kashmir, that may take some more days for warming up, Ladakh has gone active. In Leh, a number of candidates have filed their nominations but given the pattern of polling that has emerged since 2002, it is expected that Leh Union Territory Front (LUTF) supported candidates would win. Though LUTF had made an effort to repeat 2002 by managing a consensus candidate for the twin segments but it did not happen this time.

There are many candidates in the fray on non-party basis but the contest is unlikely to impact the LUTF prospects.

Even NC president Omar Abdullah had flown to Leh and interacted with all the top Buddhist leaders. ���All the meetings were all right but we do not see the possibility of contesting there���, an NC insider said.

Vernacular media on Wednesday reported that LUFT leaders may eventually be allies of NC, if it wins. In neighboring Kargil, NC has better chances given the fact that it runs the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council Kargil (LAHDC)..
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