J&K Police on Saturday arrested a known PDP worker from Srinagar’s Habbakadal locality with posters calling for election boycott, a day before Sunday’s bypolls for Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency.
Habbakadal is a stronghold of opposition National Conference (NC), which has fielded party president Farooq Abdullah from the constituency.
The bypolls would be defined by the boycott. While separatist Hurriyat Conference hopes for a complete boycott of the elections to “send a message” to international community, both ruling PDP and opposition alliance partners NC and the Congress are vying for selective boycott — in the strongholds of their rivals, to help their candidate sail through.
On Sunday, the focus would be away from Srinagar. It will be centred on adjoining Budgam and Ganderbal districts, which form a part of Srinagar parliamentary seat. While Srinagar city is expected to largely follow the call for boycott, voting patterns in Ganderbal and Budgam could decide the fate of the candidates.
Srinagar Lok Sabha seat fell vacant after Tariq Hameed Karra, resigned as an MP last year. Karra, then in PDP, had defeated NC stalwart and former CM Farooq Abdullah in 2014. After resigning from PDP, Karra joined the Congress and is campaigning for Abdullah this time.
The bypolls are seen as a direct contest between NC’s Abdullah and PDP’s Nazir Ahmad Khan.
Khan, who recently joined PDP, was the Congress candidate from Beerwah Assembly seat in 2014 elections. He had lost to then chief minister Omar Abdullah by a margin of only 900 votes.
The outcome would also be determined by which candidate is able to influence Shia voters, who have a strong presence especially in Budgam district. The PDP has made its Shia face, Imran Raza Ansari, the star campaigner.
A key campaign theme of NC is that any vote for the PDP would be a vote for the RSS.