The political parties mainly ruling National Conference (NC) and opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) -- were expected to begin electioneering soon after the Election Commission announced the nine-phased poll schedule on March 5. However, heavy snowfall and rains in the second week of the month forced them to put their plans on hold.
The unexpected snowfall which was heaviest in the past almost 30 years in the month of March caused widespread damage to buildings including residential houses and also claimed 17 lives across the state. With more snowfall predicted over the next two days, activities of the political parties in connection with the Lok Sabha polls are expected to remain confined to meetings for reworking the strategy.
The three Lok Sabha seats of Kashmir Valley Anantnag, Srinagar and Baramulla are scheduled to go to polls on April 17, April 24 and May 7 respectively. The NC has fielded sitting Lok Sabha members for all three seats including Farooq Abdullah from Srinagar, Mehboob Beg from Anantnag and Sharief-ud-Din Shariq in Baramulla.
Opposition PDP has fielded strong candidates for this general election as party president Mehbooba Mufti will contest from Anantnag parliamentary constituency while senior leader and former Deputy Chief Minister of the state Muzaffar Hussain Beigh will contest from Baramulla seat.
Former Finance Minister Tariq Hamid Karra will take on NC heavyweight Farooq Abdullah from the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat. Abdullah, while announcing candidates for the Lok Sabha polls on December 5, told his party workers that he will be contesting from Srinagar seat till he is alive.
Abdullah may not be able to go on a full blown election campaign this time due to some health related issues which have required his hospitalization twice in the past two years. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), led by Arvind Kejriwal, will make its electoral debut in Kashmir as it has fielded RTI activist turned politician Raja Muzaffar Bhat from the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat.
A dentist by profession, Bhat will be banking on strong anti-incumbency to make an impact in the polls. The AAP, however, has not named any candidates for the other two seats of the Valley so far. Although Parliament elections have traditionally not evoked much enthusiasm among the electorate of the Valley, the parties are expected to put in their best efforts to create a launching pad for state Assembly polls scheduled to be held later in the year.
The voter turnout in the three seats of the Valley in 2009 general elections was 30 per cent, way below the national average of around 60 per cent.