PDP candidate from Anantnag, Tassaduq Mufti, today appealed to the Election Commission to postpone the Lok Sabha by-poll to the constituency in view of the large-scale violence during the polling in Srinagar. “My appeal to the EC is to postpone the polls till the situation improves. It is my request,” he told reporters at a press conference on the premises of the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s Fairview residence. Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency -spread over four districts of Kulgam, Pulwama, Shopian and Anantnag — is scheduled to go to polls on Wednesday.
Asked if he would withdraw from the contest if the EC did not postpone the polls, the cinematographer-turned-politician said, “If my withdrawing helps in postponing the elections to a more favourable time, I am happy to withdraw.”
He, however, made it clear that he would contest the election even if the commission rejected his appeal. “Well one has to consider how my withdrawing will help the cause. What will be the benefit of my withdrawal? I am contesting and I will go all the way … I am in it for a reason. The cause is to give a voice to everyone, to assess the situation and make things better,” he said.
The 45-year-old PDP leader refused to comment on the opposition National Conference’s charges against the state government that it had failed in providing safe environment for polls. Mufti said he was hurt by yesterday’s violence during polling in Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency. “I want to express my condolences for the youths who lost their lives in the violence. It is very painful and regretable…I am hurt by what happened yesterday,” he said.
On the timing of his appeal, Mufti said the situation is continuously changing. “At my level, I am not able to say what is going to happen tomorrow. When certain things happen, we have to be cognizant of the fact that these are the things that have led or gone in a certain direction,” he said.
Asked if he agreed with Chief Minister’s assertion that only five per cent people were making trouble in Kashmir, Mufti, who is Mehbooba’s younger brother, evaded a direct reply. He also denied that violence in Kashmir was a reflection of anger against the PDP for allying with the BJP after the 2014 assembly election.
“After the alliance, Mehbooba Mufti won with a significant margin. We are all aware of that. Had it been the case, it would not have happened,” he said. Asked about the low voter turnout in Srinagar bypoll, Mufti said democracy did not function properly yesterday but it should not be seen as a victory for separatists.
“When you talk about freedom, everyone should be allowed to express. You cannot force people to vote and you cannot force people not to vote. “Some people were not allowed to vote and for some people it was not an ideal situation (for voting). This is not how democracy should work,” he said.
“How can you give credit to anyone who curtails freedom? Anyone who curtails the freedom — be it government or separatists — is in the wrong,” he said, adding that calling for boycott of elections is not part of democracy. “No one group can do that. Democracy is when anyone can exercise his or her right,” Mufti said.