Updated March 20th, 2024 at 18:04 IST

Political Twist: Engineer Rasheed Enters Lok Sabha Race from Tihar Jail

Ex-legislator Sheikh Abdul Rasheed, alias Engineer Rasheed, currently in Delhi’s Tihar jail, is contesting the upcoming Lok Sabha elections from north Kashmir.

Political Twist: Engineer Rasheed Enters Lok Sabha Race from Tihar Jail | Image:PTI
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Baramulla: In a twist of fate, former legislator Sheikh Abdul Rasheed, alias Engineer Rasheed, currently in Delhi’s Tihar jail, is contesting the upcoming Lok Sabha elections from north Kashmir’s Baramulla constituency.

In a hurriedly called press conference, Political Affairs Chairman of the Awami Ittehad Party,(AIP) Ishtiyaq Ahmad, said “Keeping in view the aspirations and sentiments of the voters of Baramulla, the party chief Engineer Rasheed will run for Lok Sabha elections from Jammu and Kashmir’s Baramulla constituency under the AIP banner,”.

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In the midst of the political upheaval, Manzoor Anjum, Editor-in-Chief of Daily Uqab, shared insights with Republic TV, “Er. Rasheed has not been convicted yet, so he can contest. If he contests, it's difficult to predict what percentage of votes he will get this time,” Anjum said, alluding to the complexities surrounding Rasheed's candidacy.

Reflecting on Rasheed’s relevance in the current political climate, Anjum emphasised the need for observation. “It remains to be seen if Er Rasheed is still relevant or not because it will be interesting to watch," he said. He further added, “The entire atmosphere, particularly post abrogation of Article 370, is a bit confusing. Whether Er is relevant or not, or whether it's an indication of some bigger challenges within the Kashmiri society, will be known only once he's allowed to contest elections,”.

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Meanwhile, Ahmad disclosed the party’s decision to eschew pre-poll alliances, relying instead on the support of the populace and crowdfunding for campaign financing.

“We won't have a pre-poll alliance. We will fight on our strength, the strength of the people,” Ahmad asserted, outlining the party’s strategy for the forthcoming elections.

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In response to inquiries about any indication from authorities regarding Engineer Rasheed's release, Ahmad said, “We remain uncertain about when Er Rasheed will be granted freedom. A comprehensive FIR spanning 25,000 pages has been lodged against him, and the legal proceedings are ongoing in court. We hold the Constitution of India in high regard, albeit acknowledging past misinterpretations,”.

“Engineer Rasheed has served as an MLA for 11 years and according to the Constitution of India, he possesses the right to contest. Despite being labelled as an agent until recently, he has spent the past 5 years incarcerated in Tihar Jail,” he further added.

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Meanwhile, the announcement of Engineer Rasheed’s candidacy has added to the intrigue of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in Jammu and Kashmir. It comes in the wake of rival party leader Sajad Lone’s declaration of candidacy for his party in the same constituency.

Political parties like the National Conference (NC), the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and others are yet to unveil their candidates.

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Profile of Engineer Rasheed

Er. Rasheed, who served as a two-term MLA from the Langate constituency in north Kashmir, gained notoriety in 2015 when he faced assault by BJP MLAs inside the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly for organizing a beef party. The incident sparked protests, with former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah condemning it as a ‘Dadri style assault,’ criticizing the BJP’s actions.

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In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Er Rasheed surprised many by polling 1, 01500 votes as an Independent candidate in the Baramulla constituency, trailing behind National Conference’s Akbar Lone by 31,192 votes and Sajad Lone’s Peoples Conference by 827 votes.

Rasheed’s ability to connect with the youth was evident through his active presence on social media platforms like Facebook, even when he was placed under house arrest by the authorities to prevent him from leading a march against PM Narendra Modi’s Kashmir visit. The video was watched by more than a million people then.

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Known for his street agitations and vocal criticisms of the government, Rasheed’s political career took a dramatic turn when he was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in August 2019 in connection with a case related to the funding of terrorist activities in Kashmir.

His arrest marked the first instance of a mainstream politician being apprehended by the NIA in such a case.

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Rasheed was arrested after failing to provide satisfactory answers in questioning. His connection emerged during Zahoor Watali’s interrogation for funding terrorist groups in J&K.

During the probe, NIA uncovered illegal fundraising, implicating Hafiz Saeed, banned Hurriyat factions, Hizbul Mujahideen and Dukhtaran-e-Millat.

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Published March 20th, 2024 at 18:04 IST