The Battle for the Bastion: Mehbooba Mufti’s South Kashmir Standoff

Anantnag: The tectonic changes in Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha seat – slated to go for polls on May 25- could prove a roller-coaster ride for Mehbooba Mufti of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The recent delimitation has added Rajouri to the traditionally Muslim-dominated Anantnag seat, altering the voter demographics and impacting the strategies of various political parties.

This constituency, pivotal for the future political direction of the Kashmir Valley, is witnessing intense competition. Despite efforts for an alliance, Mehbooba Mufti and the National Conference, led by the Abdullah family, have parted ways. In a strategic move, the National Conference withdrew its sitting MP Hasnain Masoodi’s ticket, nominating Mian Altaf instead. Altaf, hailing from a politically influential family with a legacy of public service and a former ministerial position, commands considerable local support.

Adding to the complexity, former Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s Democratic Progressive Azad Party (DPAP) has fielded Advocate Salim. The BJP, notably, has decided not to contest this seat.

Transformation in Anantnag

Once synonymous with terrorism, Anantnag now paints a picture of tranquility and normalcy. Residents testify to the improved security situation, noting that businesses can now operate late into the night. A hotelier echoed these sentiments, highlighting the peaceful environment and the absence of past disturbances.

The constituency, spanning diverse regions like Pahalgam, Poonch-Rajouri, and Kulgam-Shopian, reflects a stark contrast to its troubled past. The elections, initially scheduled for May 7, were postponed to May 25 at the request of various political entities. The inclusion of the Rajouri region has drastically increased the Hindu voter base. This could alter the electoral equation in this previously Muslim-majority seat.

Economic and Social Revival

In cities like Kulgam, the sight of open fruit shops and the absence of stone-pelting incidents signal a return to normalcy. Tourism, a vital sector for the region, is on the rise. Pahalgam, a major attraction, draws numerous visitors, bolstered by the annual Amarnath Yatra. Locals capturing the beauty of the Lidder River, and hotel operators eagerly anticipate the influx of pilgrims and tourists. The area as per the locals is burgeoning economic revival. As Anantnag-Rajouri gears up for the elections, the reshaped constituency could not prove a cake walk for the PDP President could in scores of her roads shows has declared Anantnag has her bastion and a place she can rally on amid the trying circumstances.

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