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Three-cornered contest:Who will win the Baramulla seat?

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The Baramulla Parliamentary constituency is all set to witness a three-cornered fight between the National Conference, Peoples Conference, and Independent incarcerated candidate Er. Rasheed. The Election Commission has already announced voting for the seat in the fifth phase on 20 May, with results on June 4.
 
 National Conference has fielded former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah while former minister in the BJP-PDP coalition government Sajad Lone is contesting on the Peoples Conference ticket. The Peoples Democratic Party Party has named Fayaz Mir as its candidate. What has made the contest interesting and catchy is the presence of incarcerated leader Er Rasheed who is fighting as an Independent and whose election campaign is run by his son Abrar Rasheed.
   
According to political observers, it will be challenging for the National Conference to retain the constituency. They admit that there is a direct contest between Omar Abdullah, Sajad Lone, and Er Rasheed.
   
Er Rasheed’s son has been drawing large crowds and his supporters believe his victory is imminent. However, political observers believe that they should not underestimate the vote bank of the Peoples Conference and National Conference.
  
 The data available with the news agency Kashmir News Trust reveals that during the last election, Er Rasheed bagged more votes from Baramulla than his own belts in Kupwara district.
  
While explaining the fact why Er Rasheed got more votes in belts like Uri, Rafiabad, Baramulla, Tangmarg and Sangrama during the last Parliamentary elections, one of the political observers said that due to internal bickering in PDP that time some leaders overtly and covertly supported the Engineer. But that is not the case this time. What advantage Er Rasheed had in the last election has this time shifted to PC’s Sajad Lone.
 
 “At that time the then Democratic Party (Nationalist) chief Ghulam Hasan Mir had openly supported Er Rasheed as a result Tangmarg Belt fetched a large number of votes for the Engineer. In this election, Mir is part of Jammu Kashmir Apni Party that has already backed Sajad Lone – much disappointment to his rivals.”
   
The majority of the PDP leaders who in the last election instead of supporting their party candidate Abdul Qayoom Wani, supported Er Rasheed have joined Altaf Bukhari led Apni Party. Sajad Lone has an edge due to open support from the Apni Party. Only Basharat Bukhari who switched from one party to another has supported Omar Abdullah. Basharat Bukhari has a strong vote belt in Sangrama segment. However, the support from Muzaffar Hussain Beigh and his better half Safina Beigh to Sajad Lone is likely to change the equation.
  
 Political observers told the news agency KNT that the vote bank of the National Conference in Hajin Belt may get hit due to the support of Imtiyaz Parrey (son of Kuka Parray and Apni Party leader) to Sajad Lone.
 
 Peoples Conference leader Imran Raza Ansari has also a robust vote bank in the Pattan segment which likely prove beneficial to Sajad Lone.
 
 If reports are to be believed, hundreds of NC workers in Kupwara have expressed resentment for not fielding a candidate from the district. “A section supporting the party is not happy with the decision not to give a local the ticket,” said a local leader, speaking on condition of anonymity.This is a worrying factor for the party.
  
The position of National Conference is also not good in Bandipora where the rivals of the past Usman Majid and Nizamuddin Bhat have appealed to their supporters to vote for the Sajad Lone. National Conference in Bandipora recently ousted its former MLA Ghulam Rasool Naz and her daughter Dr Bilquese and preferred a lesser-known face Advocate Nazir Malik.
  
In Beerwa, DDC Chairman Nazir Khan who lost to Omar Abdullah by a thin margin in the 2014 Assembly elections has already declared open support to Sajad Lone.
  
NC will rely mostly on the vote bank of its top leaders including member Parliament Muhammad Akbar Lone, Rahuallah Mehdi, Choudri Muhammad Ramzan, and others.
   
One of the political observers said that Sajad Lone has the backing of multiple political leaders while the National Conference has a dedicated cadre that never believes in boycott theory. “Ultimately, it is the voter and not the one who chants slogans in a rally that decides the fate of the candidate. The fight is tough and interesting,” he said adding that anything is possible on the result day. [KNT]

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