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Youthful Campaign Sparks Hope in Baramulla: Sons of Incarcerated Candidate Engineer Rashid Lead the Charge

In the vibrant and politically charged landscape of Kashmir’s Baramulla constituency, a unique campaign is unfolding as the sons of jailed AIP candidate Engineer Rashid take center stage. With their father incarcerated in Tihar jail, Abrar and Asrar Rasheed, aged 24 and 20 respectively, have stepped into the electoral fray. Their campaign is characterized by its grassroots nature, lacking the typical trappings of political rallies, and instead, it focuses on connecting directly with voters.

Dressed simply in white t-shirts and trousers, the young brothers have been traveling through the region, waving to enthusiastic crowds and engaging with supporters using microphones. Their organic campaign, a rare sight in Kashmir, emphasizes their father’s struggles and the broader injustices faced by many in the region. This personal touch has resonated with many locals, creating a dynamic and hopeful atmosphere.

The Baramulla constituency, known for its high voter turnout and historical significance, is witnessing a three-way contest. Omar Abdullah of the National Conference (NC) and Sajjad Lone of the People’s Conference (PC) are also vying for the seat. Despite their lack of electoral experience, Abrar and Asrar’s youth-driven campaign is gaining momentum, aiming to leverage the significant youth population in the area.

Abrar Rasheed has been vocal about the potential for youth to drive societal change. During a rally in Budgam, he emphasized the shared experiences of many families with incarcerated members, drawing parallels to their own situation. This message of solidarity and shared struggle has been a cornerstone of their campaign, appealing to voters on a deeply personal level.

Omar Abdullah has countered with numerous rallies, focusing his attacks on Sajjad Lone and the BJP, while Sajjad Lone has attempted to undermine Abdullah’s local credibility by labeling him an outsider. Amid these traditional political strategies, the Rasheed brothers’ approach stands out for its authenticity and grassroots support.

Despite limited resources, Abrar and Asrar have benefited from the support of numerous volunteers. Their campaign has relied heavily on community contributions, with locals providing necessary resources for publicity. This community-driven effort has not only sustained their campaign but also highlighted the genuine support they enjoy among the populace.

Security remains a paramount concern in Baramulla, given its proximity to the Line of Control. Comprehensive security measures have been put in place to ensure a smooth election process. Officials have been coordinating closely with security agencies, adhering to the Election Commission of India’s guidelines to maintain order during the elections.

The constituency, now encompassing 18 assembly segments after delimitation, has a diverse voter base of 11.5 lakh people, including significant populations of Gujjar Bakarwal, Pahari, and Shia communities. Historically a stronghold of the NC, Baramulla has also seen victories by the Congress party and the PDP. The current election dynamics, however, suggest a potentially shifting landscape.

In the 2019 general elections, NC candidate Mohammad Akbar Lone emerged victorious, but the competition was fierce. Engineer Rashid, running as an independent, secured a substantial number of votes, demonstrating his influence in the region. The Rasheed brothers are now attempting to build on this foundation, hoping to convert their father’s previous support into an electoral victory.

As the campaign progresses towards the June 4 election date, the outcome remains uncertain. What is clear, however, is that the youthful energy and genuine connection of Abrar and Asrar Rasheed have injected a fresh dynamic into Baramulla’s political scene, challenging the established political order and capturing the imagination of many voters.

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