Parties gear up for Poonch by-elections

Rajouri, Nov 9: After the announcement of Election Commission of India to hold by-elections for Poonch assembly segment on December 12, the political parties have geared up to launch their poll campa...

Rajouri, Nov 9: After the announcement of Election Commission of India to hold by-elections for Poonch assembly segment on December 12, the political parties have geared up to launch their poll campaign across the border district.
The seat fell vacant a few months back due to the demise of National Conference (NC) MLA Ghulam Muhammad Jan. Though NC, the main opposition party of the state, has been organizing public gatherings for the past one month to retain the seat in its traditional bastion, with the announcement of the polling date workers of ruling alliance Congress and PDP have also become active since Friday morning. 
Possibility of Cong-PDP alliance in the elections also seems to have ended with the statement of state Congress president Peerzada Muhammad Sayeed that his party will field its own candidate for the by-elections.
"We will field our own candidate and there will be no alliance with PDP or any other political party on Poonch by-election seat," Peerzada told Greater Kashmir over phone. 
On the other hand, PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti said her party was yet to decide the future course of action and added that things will clear soon. "We have not decided yet whether to have a joint candidate or contest independently. We will decide it within two or three days," Mehbooba told Greater Kashmir.
Meanwhile, workers of all major political parties including the Congress, the PDP and the NC have got divided into many groups over the issue of party mandate. 
The NC, for instance, is divided into three main groups. One group demands the party mandate for Ajaz Jan son of late MLA Ghulam Muhammad Jan, arguing that the candidate enjoys a "sympathy wave" due to the demise of his father. 
Another group led by Dr. Shehnaz Ganai daughter of old Sheikh family loyalist Ghulam Muhammad Ganai demands mandate for her on the ground that she has much support of the masses due to her father's contribution.
The third group is led by a local Gujjar leader and sitting MLC Chowdhary Bashir Naz. The division surfaced among the party candidates last month when Dr Shehnaz resigned from the government service and announced that she was asked by NC patron Farooq Abdullah to prepare for the coming assembly elections.
Shehnaz, since then, she has been organizing public gatherings across the assembly segment. Though the NC chief Omar Abdullah clarified later they have not promised mandate to Dr Shehnaz, this was obviously intended to keep the flock together.
The PDP and Congress are also divided. In Congress, one group is led by Yashpal Sharma who was party candidate in 2002 assembly election. Another claimant of the party mandate is Mir Jehangir whose family has always been associated with Congress. He also happens to the nephew of veteran Congress leader and former MP GM Mir.
The PDP is also divided into two groups over the mandate issue. One group is led by a local contractor Imtiaz Banday while the other is led by Chowdhary Lal Hussain Mushtaq, a lawyer. 
Observers believe that the Poonch by-election will be a test for all political parties and the results will convey a message to the electorates in the state.

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