Voting begins for last leg of IIOJ&K election

Former chief minister ruuning for seat in southern constituency of Anantnag

Anadolu Agency May 25, 2024
Voting begins for last leg of IIOJ&K election


Voting began Saturday for a southern constituency in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJ&K), where a major election was held for the first time since Aug. 5, 2019, when the Indian government scrapped the region’s autonomy.

The Anantnag-Rajouri constituency (formerly Anantnag constituency) came into being after the redrawing of electoral boundaries in 2022, which many Kashmiri parties said was aimed at denting their electoral advantage.

Earlier, the Anantnag constituency consisted exclusively of assembly segments with the overwhelming majority being from the ethnic Kashmiri Muslim population and its boundaries entirely in Kashmir Valley. But the redrawing has added nearly 800,000 people from other religious and ethnic groups, mainly Gujjar and Pahari Muslims.

The Hindu nationalist government in February granted the Pahari community the Scheduled Tribe status, which comes with reservations in jobs and other benefits.

Pollsters believe the move could benefit the allies of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, which has not fielded a candidate in the Muslim-majority Kashmir province but is likely to win the two seats in the Hindu-majority Jammu province.

The polls on Saturday will decide the fate of former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. Her main challengers are Mian Altaf, a former minister and distinguished Gujjar community leader, and Zafar Manhas, who belongs to the Pahari community. Manhas is a member of the Apni Party, which is backed by the BJP.

Read also: BJP worker killed in IIOJK attack

Southern districts have been at the centre of a resurgent resistance, which culminated in a mass uprising in 2016 after the killing of resistance commander Burhan Wani.

After 2019, civilian protests have died down and the number of resistance-related incidents fell significantly.

IIOJ&K will now send five parliamentarians to the 543-seat Indian parliament -- three from Kashmir province and two from Jammu.

Polls for the two Jammu seats, Srinagar and Baramulla, have already been completed in earlier phases of the multi-phase polls.

In terms of numbers, the five seats from the region are not significant but in the backdrop of the Aug. 5 decision, they have a comparatively greater symbolic value.

It was evident from the campaigning, which centered around the scrapping and its larger political ramifications.



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