Of the six Assembly segments in Anantnag district going to polls in the first leg of the three-phased Lok Sabha elections on Tuesday, Bijbehara, the hometown of the Muftis, may not bring the desired results for them this time.
The situation has arisen for the party for the first time when it completes two decades of its existence, thanks to the neglect in developing the area and its “unholy alliance” with the BJP. The parliamentary elections have pitted the PDP against its traditional friends and rivals, the Congress and National Conference, new comer People’s Conference and once its own ally, the BJP.
Life in this old highway town on Monday is abuzz with normal business, more traffic congestions and pedestrian movement. On the other end of the town, serene lies the Dara Shikoh Park at the end of which lies the mausoleum of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, former union Home Minister, who had founded the PDP in July 1999. The ongoing beautification of the Jhelum bund nearby and an incomplete structure for construction of a footbridge to connect two parks on both sides of the river remain the visible signs of development in the area.
The town is sans electioneering with no signs of party flags, banners, posters and election mood. “It has hardly witnessed any electioneering except for two recent campaign meetings of the PDP and NC at the Town Hall,” said a resident Mohammad Amin. This, according to residents, has been mainly because of the situation prevailing in the entire south Kashmir during the past three years. “The absence of public involvement in the election process has been mainly because of the PDP’s alliance with the BJP,” said Abdul Rashid, another resident. “The situation would have been different under Mufti Sayeed,” he added.
The PDP retained the Anantnag seat in 2004 and 2014 under Mehbooba and gained ground in all four districts of Anantnag, Pulwama, Kulgam and Shopian in the last three Assembly elections. Bijbehara, which elected Mehbooba to the state Assembly in 1996 for the first time, has been retained by party’s Abdul Rehman Veeri in all three Assembly elections of 2002, 2008 and 2014.
“There is a long list of neglects that the area has suffered. The Sub-District Hospital functioning like a primary health centre or a dispensary, denial of a south Kashmir campus of the University of Kashmir even with the availability of 200 kanals, no word from the party’s MLA during 2014 floods, stinking drains and no development of roads and lanes,” said Mohammad Yousuf, a local vendor. Bijbehara is among the six Assembly segments of Anantnag district, where polling is scheduled for Tuesday.