Omar Abdullah
Ex-Chief Minister Omar Abdullah during an election rally at Handwara in north KashmirNC media cell

Even as the National Conference is claiming to win the Baramulla Lok Sabha seat comfortably, the "mysterious" role played by the party's arch-rival Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last few days before the polling on this seat has increased worries for the party.

The inactivity of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) during the final days of polling for this seat of north Kashmir heightened concerns for Omar Abdullah, former Chief Minister of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and National Conference (NC) candidate in the Baramulla Parliamentary segment.

The PDP's behavior in the run-up to the election was notably erratic, initially launching an aggressive campaign in favour of party candidate Fayaz Ahmed Mir but later the party slowed down the campaign.

Although the spokesperson of the party, Syed Suhail Bukhari, released a video message to clarify that the party was not supporting Engineer Rashid, there were rumours that before the polling PDP directed its workers to support the jailed leader and candidate of the Awami Itihad Party.

Mehbooba Mufti
PDP media cell

PDP has a strong base in the Baramulla Lok Sabha seat

Historically, the PDP has had a strong presence in Baramulla, securing the seat in 2014 when party veteran Muzaffar Hussain Baig defeated then-incumbent MP Sharif-ud-Din Shariq of the National Conference.

In that election, the Baramulla constituency had 1,190,766 registered voters, of whom 465,992 cast their votes. Baig won with 175,277 votes, defeating Shariq by a margin of 29,219 votes.

Despite an anti-PDP wave in the Kashmir Valley during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, PDP candidate Abdul Qayoom Wani managed to secure over 53,000 votes.


High voter turnout in Handwara and Langate seats adds worries for NC

The recent high voter turnout in the Handwara and Langate assembly constituencies, which are part of the Baramulla Lok Sabha seat, has further complicated the scenario for the National Conference.

Handwara, the stronghold of People's Conference chief Sajjad Gani Lone, recorded a 72% turnout, the highest among the 18 assembly constituencies in Baramulla. Langate, represented by Engineer Rashid, saw over 66% voter turnout.

Although the National Conference publicly maintains confidence in Omar Abdullah's prospects, internal sources reveal concerns about the tough competition. Some party leaders, speaking anonymously, admitted that Engineer Rashid's candidacy has disrupted their electoral strategy, which they initially anticipated to be a direct contest between Omar Abdullah and Sajjad Gani Lone.

Azad's party also supported Engineer Rashid

Adding to the complexity, the Democratic Progressive Azad Party, led by Ghulam Nabi Azad, announced its support for Engineer Rashid just two days before the voting. This unexpected endorsement has bolstered Rashid's campaign, particularly in Uri, where senior Azad Party leader Taj Mohiuddin has a significant influence and is likely to have mobilized votes in Rashid's favor.

As the election results loom, the National Conference faces an increasingly challenging battle in Baramulla, with PDP's fluctuating stance and Engineer Rashid's growing support adding to the uncertainty.

On April 29, jailed Awami Ittehad Party (AIP) leader and former MLA Engineer Rashid filed his nomination for the Baramulla Lok Sabha seat in North Kashmir.

In 2019, Engineer Rashid contested from the same Baramulla Lok Sabha seat. He got 1.01 lakh votes, trailing the winner of National Conference (NC) Mohammad Akbar Lone by just 31,192 votes and only 827 votes behind the candidate of Jammu and Kashmir People's Conference (JKPC).

In August 2019, the National Investigation Agency arrested Rashid in a terror funding case.

The arrest came soon after New Delhi revoked Jammu and Kashmir's special status and statehood on August 5, 2019. Rashid has been in Delhi's Tihar jail since then.

Assembly constituency-wise voting percentage in Baramulla Lok Sabha constituency

Karnah                 61.87 %

Trehgam              62.56 %

Kupwara              60.29 %

Lolab                   58.00%

Handwara           72.00 %

Langate              66.05 %

Sopore                44.36 %

Rafiabad            57.39 %

Uri                       62.92 %

Baramulla          52.15 %

Gulmarg            59.52 %

Wagoora-Kariri  49.79 %

Pattan                60.01 %

Sonawari           64.73 %

Bandipur            60.24 %

Gurez                40.82 %

Beerwah          58.80 %

Budgam           52.00 %

Total (approx)   59 %