Baramulla, April 7 (IANS) Former MLA and Independent candidate Engineer Rashid is emerging as the dark horse in Jammu and Kashmir’s Baramulla Lok Sabha constituency.
Of late, Rashid has become a major worry for the otherwise well entrenched National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Peoples Conference (NC) candidates in this constituency.
If huge public attendance at election rallies is any indication of voter support, then Rashid has already started giving sleepless nights to his rivals.
Former IAS officer-turned-politician, Shah Faesal has also extended his support to Rashid as has former Minister Ghulam Hassan Mir, chairman of the Democratic Party Nationalist (DPN).
Faesal, who belongs to Lolab voting segment of this constituency, formed his own political party, Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Movement (JKPM), but decided not to contest the Lok Sabha elections.
Mir belongs to Tangmarg voting segment of Baramulla seat which was seen as his stronghold till he was defeated by PDP’s Abbas Wani in the 2014 Assembly elections.
Rashid represented Langate Assembly segment of Baramulla in the last state legislature that was dissolved by Governor Satya Pal Malik in November.
Rashid has been holding large public rallies, especially in Kupwara district which are attended mostly by the youths.
The pro-separatist posture of Rashid has come handy for the firebrand politician who minces no words while supporting a political resolution of the Kashmir problem by advocating the right to plebiscite.
Addressing a huge public rally on Saturday, Rashid said that the separatists had achieved nothing so far while the mainstream politicians had also failed to win the hearts and minds of the Kashmiri people.
“Give me a chance to voice your feelings in the Indian Parliament and also in international forums,” Rashid has been telling the voters as he criticizes human rights violations, dynastic rule and rampant corruption in Kashmir.
He has been telling crowds that he is one among them as he does not belong to any political family nor does he have an affluent family background.
The growing influence of Rashid has caught the imagination of the common man in Baramulla constituency where the contest has become four-cornered instead of being triangular involving the National Conference, PPD and PC.
It is widely believed that Rashid would cut into the vote banks of all three major parties.
Initially seen as a spoiler for the main contestants, Rashid has slowly become a game changer in this Lok Sabha constituency.
Senior leaders of mainstream parties including NC President Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti of PDP and Sajad Lone of PC have been holding election rallies across the constituency to garner support for their candidates.
NC has fielded Muhammad Akbar Lone, PDP has put up Abdul Qayoom Wani and the PC’s candidate is Raja Aijaz Ali.
What needs to be seen is whether Rashid only rattles the apple cart of the mainstream parties or surprises everyone by stealing victory from his otherwise well entrenched rivals.
With 13,12,148 voters spread over 1,749 polling stations, Baramulla goes to vote on April 11 in the first phase of the 5-phase Lok Sabha elections in Jammu and Kashmir.