Updated March 19th, 2024 at 17:04 IST

Mehbooba Mufti A Potential Face of INDIA Alliance From South Kashmir in Lok Sabha Poll

Mehbooba Mufti is likely to contest from the Anantnag constituency from the South Kashmir seat. PDP is considering extending support to the Congress for 2 seats

Mehbooba Mufti: Potential Face of INDIA Alliance from South Kashmir in Lok Sabha Poll | Image:PTI
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Lok Sabha Poll 2024 Srinagar: In the run-up to the highly anticipated Lok Sabha polls, political intrigue and manoeuvring have taken centre stage in the Indian political landscape. Insider sources hint at Mehbooba Mufti, President of the PDP, emerging as a face in the INDIA Alliance, particularly in South Kashmir. Further, the PDP is reportedly considering supporting Congress in two Jammu seats.

 “Mehbooba Mufti is likely to be a candidate from Anantnag constituency from the South Kashmir seat, and in a strategic move, the PDP is purportedly considering extending support to the Congress in two seats in Jammu,”  said sources familiar with the matter.

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However, amidst these developments, the grand old party of J&K, National Conference (NC), another significant player in the INDIA Alliance, appears to be forging an independent path. Despite being part of the INDIA Alliance, sources within the political circles suggest that the NC is prepared to make independent decisions on the Anantnag seat.

 “Though NC is also part of the INDIA Alliance, if NC decides not to support the INDIA Alliance candidate, then whomever NC chooses will be the candidate of NC, not the INDIA Alliance,” said sources within the same political circle.

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Pertinently, recent statements by Omar Abdullah, asserting the NC's unwillingness to allocate a seat for the PDP in the Kashmir Valley, have emphasized potential strains within the alliance. In response, efforts to uphold the unity of the People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) have intensified, with key leaders such as M.Y Tarigami and Muzaffar Shah engaging in deliberations.

“After hectic deliberations, the meeting of PAGD leaders is scheduled to take place at Abdullah’s residence in Gupkar, Srinagar, in the next two days,” sources say.

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Meanwhile, as the Election Commission of India announced the dates for the upcoming polls on March 16, the anticipation for candidate announcements from political parties heightened.

The forthcoming parliamentary board meeting of the PDP in Srinagar is expected to provide insights into the party’s electoral strategy, with speculation rife that candidate declarations may coincide with the meeting.

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“The parliamentary board meeting of the PDP is scheduled in Srinagar within the next two days. If all goes according to plan, we aim to finalize and announce our candidates for the upcoming polls on the same day,” the source added.

Mehbooba Mufti's Support Among Tribals

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Mehbooba Mufti's political clout stems from her deep-rooted connections in South Kashmir, particularly her hometown of Bijbehara. Her advocacy for the rights of marginalized communities, including the Gujjars, Pharis and Bakerwal tribes, has garnered her significant support among these demographics.

To consolidate their voter base, the late former CM Mufti Mohammad Sayeed established a separate Tribal Affairs Ministry in 2015.

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In 2018, Mehbooba was vocal in addressing the Asifa Bano case, an 8-year-old Gujjar girl who was raped and murdered in the Kathua district of the Jammu region. Hailing from the nomadic Bakarwal community, the investigation revealed that she had been sedated, gang-raped, and strangled with her own scarf. Her assailants also brutally assaulted her head with a rock over four days within the confines of a small Hindu shrine.

In 2019, selective eviction notices were issued to 33 nomadic families in Jammu following the collapse of the government. Subsequently, an anti-encroachment drive targeted Gujjar and other marginalized Muslim families in Jammu, during which Mehbooba garnered support from the Gujjar community.

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In February 2023, Jammu and Kashmir witnessed an anti-encroachment initiative led by the L-G administration. Amidst this, Mehbooba openly opposed the policies of the UT government, drawing parallels between the scenes in Jammu and Kashmir and those in Afghanistan, where homes of the underprivileged were demolished.

On December 30, 2023, Mehbooba Mufti staged a sit-in after police blocked her from meeting families of three civilians who allegedly died in Army custody after a terrorist attack on December 21 in Dera Ki Gali. Despite her intention to offer support in Topa Pir village, Poonch, her path was obstructed by police barricades, as seen in PDP-shared videos.

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Published March 19th, 2024 at 15:45 IST