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Security concerns, not politics, lure J&K candidates

By By a Delhi correspondent
November 04, 2008 18:28 IST
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With the assembly elections barely a fortnight away, electioneering is yet to pick up momentum in Jammu and Kashmir. But the lack of enthusiasm has failed to dampen the spirit of the candidates.

Over 100 candidates will battle it out in the first phase of polls on November 17, for ten assembly constituencies in the four districts of Bandipora, Leh, Kargil and Poonch.

Only 42 candidates had contested for the ten seats in the 2002 assembly polls.

Several parties are seeking to enter the political arena in the state via this election. These include the Lok Jana Shakti Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and both factions of the Janata Dal.

JK: Poll process gets underway

The Janata Party led by Dr Subramanyan Swamy has been asking for candidates and campaigners through newspaper advertisements, promising money, vehicles and accommodation after the polls.

The Bharatiya Janata Party is trying to counter its saffron image by fielding several Muslim candidates in the Kashmir Valley, which has a very small Hindu voter base.

It has fielded 17 Kashmiri Muslims including Nisar Ahmed Gilani from Sangrama, which is a separatist stronghold near Sopore and bastion of hardline Kashmiri leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

BJP's provincial president Sofi Mohammad Yusuf said that the party would seek votes on the basis of the peace process initiated by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Should J&K polls be held on schedule?

"It is a tragedy that the BJP is termed communal," said Sofi, who has contested three assembly and a Lok Sabha election unsuccessfully. "We are no less secular than the Congress party," he asserted.

Asked about the BJP's stance on the abrogation of Article 370, which grants special political status to Jammu and Kashmir, Sofi said, "This is mere politicking. They (the BJP high command) would never do it. If they wanted to, they could have done so when they were in power."

He claimed that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government had initiated talks with the Hurriyat Conference and even provided them political legitimacy all over the world.

However, observers believe that the sudden rush for filing nominations has less to do with politics and more to do with security. Along with other privileges, elected candidates also get a personal security guard and police protection at their house. Each member of the Legislative Assembly will also be provided a government accommodation and a vehicle for the next five years.

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By a Delhi correspondent