The low-key campaigning for bypoll to Anantnag Assembly seat in Jammu and Kashmir, from where Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti is contesting, will end on June 20. Mehbooba has only held a few meetings as part of her campaign to retain the seat for her party. Her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had won the seat in 2014.
His death on January 7 2016 necessitated the by-election.
She is banking on the support extended by the people of the south Kashmir region to her Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) since it came into existence in 1998.
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The chief minister has not conducted any major rallies and is relying this time on some of the “trusted aides” to connect with the voters.
Roads and Buildings Minister Abdul Rehman Veeri, a trusted lieutenant of the Muftis, and Sartaj Madni — Mehbooba’s maternal uncle — are camping in Anantnag to oversee the electioneering.
PDP chief spokesperson Mehboob Beg, who has represented Anantnag twice in the past on National Conference ticket, will also be a key factor.
In the few roadside meetings, Mehbooba has asked the voters to allow her to continue the work started by her late father.
She has not touched upon contentious political issues and confined herself mostly to matters of development, employment and social welfare needs of the constituency.
Seven other candidates are also in the fray in the constituency where polling will be held on June 2 but the contest is expected to be between her and the Congress candidate, Hilal Ahmad Shah.
Shah had contested against her father in 2014 polls, losing by a margin of about 6,000 votes.
The voters of the constituency have gone through two gruelling elections in 2014. Anantnag constituency generally records low voter turnout — only 39 per cent voters exercised their franchise in 2014 Assembly polls.
A lower voter turnout will not be a surprise this time too as the PDP-BJP coalition already has the numbers to continue in office.
Even if Mehbooba fails to win the Assembly elections, she can continue in office by taking the Legislative Council route.
National Conference is facing an uphill task in the elections after losing in south Kashmir to arch-rival PDP ahead of the 2014 elections.
For the party, it is a struggle to stay relevant while PDP will be seeking an endorsement for its tie up with the BJP.