A day after violence during the bypoll to the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat left eight persons dead and scores injured, Tasaduq Mufti, brother of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and PDP candidate for the Anantnag parliamentary seat, urged the Election Commission to postpone the April 12 bypoll in south Kashmir “till the situation becomes conducive”.
At the same time, Tasaduq questioned the separatist call for boycott of elections, saying such a call is “not part of democracy”.
“When you talk of freedom, it stands true for everyone. You cannot force people to vote and you cannot force people not to vote,” he said. “Clearly, some people were not allowed to vote (on Sunday)”.
The Congress, however, opposed Tasaduq Mufti’s request, saying he wanted the bypoll deferred because “he foresees his loss”. “They can foresee their loss. That is why they have appealed for postponement of the election,” said J&K Congress president Ghulam Ahmad Mir, who is contesting against Tasaduq.
On Sunday, violence marred the Srinagar bypoll which recorded a voter turnout of only 7.14 per cent, a new low for the prestigious seat in the Valley.
The Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency in south Kashmir, which has been simmering ever since the crackdown on street protesters last year, is spread across the districts of Pulwama, Shopian, Kulgam and Anantnag. The seat was vacated by Mehbooba Mufti last year after she resigned from Lok Sabha to take over as Chief Minister.
After polling in Srinagar Sunday, J&K Chief Electoral Officer Shantmanu conceded that conducting elections in south Kashmir could be “a major challenge”.
Tasaduq said the situation in south Kashmir was not conducive for elections and the state government had already informed the Election Commission about it.”
“The state can only make an appeal. It is for the Election Commission to decide,” he said.
To a query whether he anticipated violence in south Kashmir too on polling day, Tasaduq said: “I am not a soothsayer but common sense says we should postpone the election.”
He said he will remain in the fray if the Election Commission decides to go ahead with the bypoll. “I am contesting. I have to go all the way if it helps the cause in any way. Otherwise, it doesn’t make sense to withdraw,” he said.