Despite boycott call, Jamaat cadres come out in support of PDP

Afroza Akhtar's reason for voting for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was simple she identified with its poll symbol, a pen and inkpot. According to the resident of Bichroo village in Kulgam, she felt an affinity to the symbol as it was the same one used by the Muslim United Front in the 1987 elections when Jamaat-e-Islami's Abdul Razak Mir won Kulgam constituency.

Akhtar's reason sounds simplistic but after six phases of polls, it is clear that Jamaat-e-Islami supporters voted for PDP across Kashmir, with only a few exceptions. This phenomenon has shifted the poll balance substantially in favour of the PDP.

It was during the 1987 Assembly polls that Jamaat-e-Islami joined hands with other Islamic parties to form the Muslim United Front (MUF) to fight the National Conference-Congress alliance. When militancy erupted in 1990, MUF and its leadership joined the separatist struggle and later formed the Hurriyat Conference.

Since the beginning of the separatist struggle, Akhtar's Bichroo village has been a traditional boycott territory for two major reasons: it is a Jamaat stronghold and the native village of Kulgam's last Jamaat legislator, Abdul Razak Mir, who was later assassinated by the counter-insurgent group, Ikhwan.

The "tacit Jamaat-PDP alliance" has already become a poll issue and the National Conference (NC) is far from pleased. "Despite a boycott call issued by Jamaat-e-Islami, its cadres were allowed to vote for Mufti and PDP," NC patron Farooq Abdullah said while addressing election rallies in Srinagar district. Claiming that this was "unfair", Farooq added that Hurriyat hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani would "have to answer the (Kashmiri) nation".

The Amir (chief) of Jamaat-e-Islami, Sheikh Ghulam Hassan, however, denied that Jamaat members had voted. "These reports are not true. None of the Jamaat-e-Islami basic members voted in these elections," he said. "Some supporters may have voted, but there is a clear difference between a Jamaat member and a Jamaat supporter."

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