Srinagar: Four-time Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah is the front-runner in the prestigious Srinagar Lok Sabha seat although he is locked in a triangular contest as he seeks re-election from here.
In his over 40-year-long political career, Abdullah, now 82, has lost only one election. That was in 2014 when Tariq Hameed Karra of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) defeated him in Srinagar.
Karra later resigned both from the PDP and Parliament after which Abdullah avenged his defeat by winning the by-election in 2017 against Nazir Ahmad Khan of the PDP.
To ensure Abdullah’s victory, the National Conference has entered into an alliance with the Congress.
In return, the NC has not fielded any candidate in Jammu and Udhampur Lok Sabha seats to improve the victory margins of the Congress candidates.
In Srinagar, Abdullah is challenged mainly by Aga Syed Mohsin of the PDP and Irfan Raza Ansari of the Peoples Conference.
The BJP has fielded Khalid Jahangir, a former journalist who has never contested any election so far.
There are other candidates in the fray in Srinagar including from the National Panthers Party, Janata Dal-United and independents but their vote base in the constituency is unlikely to pose much of a problem for the veteran Abdullah, who has Jammu and Kashmir in 1982, 1985, 1987 and 1996.
The Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency is spread over three districts: Srinagar, Badgam and Ganderbal.
Since 1990, after militancy started in the state, urban voting segments like those in Srinagar city and elsewhere have recorded very low voter turnout, thereby leaving the destiny of contestants in the hands of voters in rural segments.
Abdullah won in 2017 when just 7 per cent of votes were polled and amid violence which left six people dead.
Abdullah’s winning prospects therefore depend heavily on the voter turnout in rural areas of Kangan, Ganderbal, Beerwah, Khansahib, Chrar-e-Sharief and Badgam.
Gujjar leader and former Minister Mian Altaf Ahmed has dominating political influence which is expected to help Abdullah in Kangan and Ganderbal.
In addition, the National Conference has strong pockets of influence in Beerwah, Badgam and Chrar-e-Sharief.
The Srinagar Lok Sabha seat has 12,90,318 voters and 1,716 polling stations.
In addition, 26 polling stations will be set up for migrant voters including 21 in Jammu, one in Udhampur and four in New Delhi.
Srinagar will vote on April 18, between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m.