Day after: HQs of NC, Cong, PDP wear a deserted look

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Srinagar, Oct 20 (UNI) A day after the Election Commission's announcement of seven-phase Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, the headquarters of three major political parties--the National Conference (NC), the Congress and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)- wore an almost deserted look with only a few senior leaders and dozen-odd workers present.

People on the streets, however, gave a mixed response to the holding of polls in the state.

Shri Amarnath Shrine land row has totally changed the situation in the Kashmir valley, said NC provincial president Dr Mehboob Baig.

A UNI correspondent who visited the heavily guarded Nawai-e- Subah complex near Zero bridge, the headquarters of the NC, saw that only General secretary Sheikh Nazir Ahmad and Dr Baig, besides a dozen odd workers, were present this afternoon.

Dr Baig said five months before, the situation was totally different as political parties were holding dozens of public meetings in different parts of the Valley.

''Thousands were attending our public meetings,'' Dr Baig said adding the land row agitation, first in Jammu and later in the Valley, had changed the political atmosphere here.

''We as a responsible political party will not shy away from participating in the polls,'' he said adding now when the ECI has announced the poll schedule, every political party has to take it as a challenge.

However, he made it clear that polls are no solution to the Kashmir issue which has to be resolved through dialogue with everyone, including separatists.

The situation in the Congress headquarters was no different. There were just a dozen employees and workers in the guarded building on Maulana Azad road near here.

Not a single senior leader has visited the headquarters so far after the announcement of the polls, a worker said.

He said though the list of candidates will be finalised by the Central Parliamentary Committee at New Delhi, senior leaders were debating different names of possible candidates for each constituency.

The headquarters of the PDP, which has yet to respond to the poll announcement, were also deserted. However, some people could be seen doing routine office work.

''We do not know about the elections,'' said an employee adding ''may be leaders have assembled at party president Mehbooba Mufti's residence''.

State secretary of the Communist Party of India (M) Mohammad Yousuf Targami was the only politician in the Valley who kicked off his election campaign from south Kashmir today at Kulgam.

People on the streets were busy in their daily routine work.

However, some people belonging to the middle class were happy that the tension regarding the polls would be over by December end.

A section of people, however, questioned the timing of holding polls.

''What has changed in Jammu and Kashmir during the past two weeks which encouraged the ECI to announce polls? The ECI could have announced the poll schedule along with other states without creating any confusion here,'' said Abdul Majid, a teacher by profession.

UNI BAS RP HT1445

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