Only three per cent of women candidates have been allotted tickets in the Jammu and Kashmir assembly polls. Among the major parties, the incumbent National Conference has allotted the maximum number of seats to women by nominating five women candidates, including three sitting MLAs, in the list of 84 announced by the party for the elections to the 87-member house. However, it is still miles away from the 33 per cent reservation for women that is under consideration at the national level for several years now…
Of the five National Conference (NC) candidates, Social Welfare Minister Sakina Ittoo (Noorabad seat) and chairperson of the State Commission for Women Shameema Firdous (Habbakadal seat) have a good chance of winning another term in the state assembly. However, it will not be easy for them this time. Itoo will be facing tough competition from Peoples Democratic Party’s Abdul Majid Padder. In the Lok Sabha polls, the PDP candidate had taken a slender lead over the NC candidate from the Noorabad segment.
While Firdous did not face Ittoo’s situation in the LS polls, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s focus on the minority Kashmiri Pandit vote in the assembly polls will pose a stern test for her. The constituency has a record of extremely low voter turn out with 11.70 per cent in 2008 assembly polls and just 3.08 per cent in 2002 polls. The constituency has a very high percentage of migrant Kashmiri Pandit voters. The other three women candidates of the NC are contesting from various seats in Jammu region, where the party has lost considerable ground over the past two decades.
The Congress party has nominated three women candidates in its list of 84 with former Health Minister Suman Bhagat being the only one of having any chance of seeking second term in the legislative assembly. Bhagat, who won in 2002 polls but lost in 2008 elections, is contesting from R S Pura seat. She had lost by 1,630 votes in the last Assembly polls to BJP candidate Gharu Ram Bhagat. Khem Lata Wakhloo of Congress will be locking horns with Chief Minister Omar Abdullah from Sonawar assembly segment but she might not even finish in the top two as PDP candidate Mohammad Ashraf Mir is expected to pose a formidable challenge to both of them.
PDP candidate Tariq Hamid Karra had fared better than the NC candidate and president Farooq Abdullah in the LS polls earlier this year from the Sonawar assembly constituency. Shameema Raina, a long term Mahila Congress leader, has been fielded from Zadibal constituency where the main contest is expected between PDP’s Abid Ansari and NC’s sitting MLA Peer Afaq Ahmad. The PDP has fielded only one woman candidate — Asiea Naqash — from Hazratbal assembly constituency in Srinagar.
The constituency is considered to be a strong hold of the NC as its candidates have won all the previous elections from this seat. However, times may change and Naqash might be well on course to become the first non-NC woman MLA from Srinagar. Karra, brother-in-law of Naqash, took a substantial lead against Abdullah in the LS polls this year.
The National Conference has fielded Mohammad Sayeed Akhoon from the seat after denying him mandate in 2008 elections in favour of Farooq Abdullah and later his younger brother Mustafa Kamal when by-elections were necessitated due to party president’s election to LS in 2009. The BJP has also fielded one woman candidate in Hina Bhat from Amira Kadal constituency. Bhat, daughter of former NC leader Mohammad Shafi Bhat, is locked in a triangular contest with sitting NC MLA Nasir Aslam Wani and PDP candidate Altaf Bukhari. While she jumped into politics on the back of her father’s political career, Bhat will be hoping the BJP mandate would translate into migrant Kashmiri pandit votes at the hustings. The BJP candidate’s father
represented the Amira Kadal constituency in 1996 on an NC ticket but won on a Congress ticket in 2002 after the regional party denied him mandate. Amira Kadal, which has significant number of migrant voters, is also a low voter turn out constituency having almost similar numbers like Habba Kadal in the last two assembly polls.