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Mehbooba Seeks Strength at Father’s Grave Ahead of Anantnag-Rajouri Electoral Battle

PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti recently visited the grave of her father, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, to seek strength ahead of the May 25 electoral challenge from the Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha seat. Busy with campaign activities, Mehbooba took a moment to reflect on her emotions, expressing a deep connection to her father, a former chief minister of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state who died in 2016. She emphasized that visiting his grave provides her solace and strength.

Mehbooba touched upon the upcoming elections while at her father’s gravesite, addressing her political adversaries, particularly the National Conference. She criticized their historical role in the region’s political affairs, asserting that the problems faced today are due to their actions. “From 1931, the National Conference has been part of all accords — I won’t call them agreements, I will call them surrender,” she remarked, highlighting her critical perspective on the party’s legacy.

Reflecting on the People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) past alliances and achievements, Mehbooba highlighted the party’s efforts towards dialogue and resolution. The PDP formed a government in Jammu and Kashmir in 2015 in alliance with the BJP, though the saffron party withdrew its support in 2018. Mehbooba underscored that the PDP has historically worked towards engaging with the Centre and facilitating talks regarding the Kashmir issue.

Mehbooba pointed out that the PDP’s initiatives included pushing for dialogue with Pakistan, internal discussions within Jammu and Kashmir, and advocating for the removal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the protection of Article 370. Despite these efforts, she acknowledged the abrogation of Article 370 by the Centre in 2019 and the subsequent downgrading of the state into a Union Territory, a significant setback for the PDP.

Optimistic about voter turnout in south Kashmir, Mehbooba anticipates a higher participation rate compared to Srinagar and Baramulla, indicating her hopes for a favorable electoral outcome. The reshaped Anantnag-Rajouri constituency, following the recommendations of the Delimitation Commission in 2022, now includes most of Rajouri and Poonch districts, while excluding Pulwama and parts of Shopian.

Mehbooba faces a formidable challenge from National Conference candidate and influential Gujjar leader Mian Altaf, as well as the Apni Party’s Zafar Iqbal Khan Manhas, who has the backing of the BJP. Other contenders include Democratic Progressive Azad Party leader Mohamad Saleem Parray and ten Independent candidates, making the electoral battle intensely competitive.

The electoral fate of the 20 contestants, including Mehbooba, will be decided by over 18.30 lakh eligible voters, including 8.99 lakh women and more than 81,000 first-time voters. As campaigning for the elections concluded on Thursday, Mehbooba’s visit to her father’s grave underscored her reliance on personal strength and reflection as she navigates the political challenges ahead.

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