Doda (J-K): Development is a key issue in this mountainous constituency which is witnessing a three-way contest between two-time Congress Minister Majid Wani, who is taking on the BJP making inroads in Chenab Valley and NC, which looks to wrest the seat from its coalition partner.
As the campaign gains momentum in this constituency, which has a reputation of throwing up surprises, BJP and PDP have gone full throttle with its top guns hitting the campaign trail. NC, however, is yet to see campaigning by top leaders.
Wani, who is a sitting Minister for Roads and Building in the Omar Abdullah government, faces an uphill task to retain the Doda seat as he crosses swords directly with NC's Najeeb Suharwardy and BJP candidate Shakti Raj.
JKPDP candidate Shahab-ul-Haq can also make a dent in the prospects NC-Cong in view of a polarised vote bank.
“It is a tough fight for not only the Congress in Doda to retain the seat but also in the entire Chenab valley.
The situation is different from the past”, political analyst and former Head of Department of Kashmir University, K N Pandita, said.
In the Doda Assembly constituency, 11 candidates are in the fray including Chunni Lal (BSP), Khalid Najib Suharwardy (JKNC), Shakti Raj (BJP), Shahab-ul-Haq (JKPDP), Abdul Majid Wani (INC), Daya Krishan (Independent), Rajinder Singh (Independent), Farooq Ahmed Dar (Independent), Mohammad Ali Shokeen (Independent), Mohammad Yousaf (Independent) and Nuzhat Iqbal Zargar (Independent).
Backed by Congress' star campaigner Gulam Nabi Azad, Wani, who is seeking re-election said, “People of Doda, in the past, have voted for development and this time also people will vote for development only”.
Trying to take on NC and BJP, Wani charged, “On the one hand, few NC leaders have been conspiring against sustainable development in Doda district, particularly in Doda. On the other hand, BJP has been continuously trying to polarise society to nurture its ideology of dividing society for vote bank politics”.
Accusing opposition parties of trying to divide voters on religious lines, Wani said, “Some opportunist political leaders had made attempts during the 2008 Amarnath land row and during the last Lok Sabha polls, but secular culture of people in Doda constituency defeated their vicious designs by voting for Congress”.
BJP is trying to woo voters by promising them development.
“Congress and NC have destroyed Doda. There is no visible development. There are villages without road connectivity, power and water supply which are basic needs of life”, BJP candidate Shakti Raj said.
Banking on the Modi factor, Raj said, “We seek votes from people not only for making Chenab Valley a model of development but the entire state a hub of peace and development as shown by other BJP states”.
On the campaign trial, Union Minister Jitendra Singh said the “growing popularity” of BJP is making leaders of other parties “frustrated” and they are finding it difficult to face the people “while our party and candidates are being given a warm reception at public meetings”.
NC candidate Khajid Najeeb Suharwardy, who lost twice in the past in NC's traditional bastion, is hoping to win the polls.
“Wani's performance is nil...peace and development is a distant dream. I am showcasing my period of development from 1997 to 2002 when I was MoS Home”, Suharwardy said.
On the campaign trial, PDP's star campaigners, former Chief Minister Mufti Sayeed, PDP chief and MP Mehbooba Mufti and Srinagar MP Tariq Karra have hit out at Congress and NC, saying there has been no development during their rule.
Mehbooba said, “The forthcoming Assembly elections offer a historic opportunity to people to liberate themselves from the exploitation of the National Conference and Congress”.
“You have to come out to vote for PDP for a bright future as both Congress and NC have done nothing for your betterment and empowerment till now,” Mehbooba said. Doda Assembly segment was a stronghold of NC upto 2002, but in the 2002 assembly election NC candidate lost to Congress leader Wani.
Doda constituency has 60 per cent Muslims and 40 per cent Hindu voters. Political observers feel that 52 per cent Muslim votes would get divided among various contestants including NC, Congress and PDP, leaving minority votes for BJP or Hindu contestants.
Doda Assembly segment has 83770 registered voters including 44180 men and 39590 women with 139 polling stations, most of which are sensitive, DEO, Doda, Sham Meena said. Wani won the 2008 Assembly elections for the second consecutive time and is the present MLA.
He defeated Khalid Najib Suharwardy of JKNC. Wani bagged 23254 votes as against Suharwardy's 16102 votes.
In 2002, Abdul Majeed Wani won elections and secured 13456 votes as against NC's Suharwardy who secured 13145. In the 1997 by-elections, Suharwardy won by-polls after the death of his father.
NC won the Doda seat four times while Congress won it three times. Independents won the seat twice while Janta Party was victorious once.