Er Rashid's Intensive SM Campaign Failed To Woo Rural Voters

(MENAFN- Kashmir Observer) Bandipora- On May 19, just a day before the Baramulla constituency's crucial voting day, Abdul Ahad Lone's two sons approached their father with a firm decision. They were determined to cast their votes for Engineer Rashid, aiming to help him reach parliament and amplify the“voice of Kashmiris.”

Lone, 64, a resident of Chuntimulla village in North Kashmir's Bandipora, has been a dedicated National conference (NC) voter for decades. He arrived at the polling station early in the morning to cast his vote for NC once again, but he couldn't persuade his children to support the regional party.


“Both of them were very emotional towards Engineer Rashid and used to hear election speeches of his son on social media for hours,” Lone told Kashmir Observer.

Khan says that although neither sibling has met Engineer Rashid nor attended his recent rallies in the district, however after watching Abrar Rashid's speech, they developed sympathy for him, this sentiment was not shared by everyone in the village. Unlike Rashid's sons, who work in the main town of the district and are active on social media, other villagers were not swayed by Rashid's extensive social media campaign. Chuntimulla, located around 10 kilometers from Bandipora's main town, lags behind in terms of internet connectivity and most of the population lacks technological proficiency.

Almost all the political parties in Jammu and Kashmir actively used social media including Facebook, Instagram and X to reach-out to the people and convince them to vote. These platforms have become essential for them to disseminate information, mobilize supporters, and influence public opinion.
The parties have created special social media cells who share the speeches of their candidates and other party leaders and get massive responses sometimes, especially from the youngsters.

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Before Engineer Rasheed entered the electoral arena, the North Kashmir constituency was perceived as a battle between the National Conference (NC) and the People's Conference (PC). However, with his entry, Engineer has turned North into a three-way contest, and his
party also used social media actively to motivate people to vote in favor of their jailed leader.

On 14 May, while addressing a road shown in Bandipora Abrar Rashid said that he is not a political leader, and has just come to remind people that his father has been behind bars for the last five years.“Your vote will ensure his release from jail” he said. As soon as the speech was uploaded on the different social media handles, it gained a lot of traction. Most of the people reacted in comments with sad emoticons and some said,“we will vote for Engineer Rashid.”

Notably, Rashid is in New Delhi's Tihar jail for the last five years. He was arrested in August 2019 by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in a terror funding case.

While the use of social media had a significant impact on the people living in towns and villages of North Kashmir, it failed to create an impact on the voters who are living in far flung areas and to those who are not connected to social media.

Take the example of Chuntimulla which has a total population of around 5000 people, as per the locals.

“Around 70 percent of the population is not on social media, especially elders,” said Aeshan Bashir, a college student from the village.

Most of the villagers in to whom Kashmir Observer spoke said that they voted for traditional political parties including NC and PDP.

Similar reports were received from the Kupwara, URI and Baramulla district where people from hilly areas maintained that Rashid's party failed to reach-out to them during the electoral campaign.

The campaign of Engineer Rashid's party,
according to villagers,
remained restricted to main towns and some urban pockets where voting turnout in previous elections remained low.

“In higher reaches and villages, the people vote in good numbers even during the boycott time, but Rashid's party failed to reach-out to them,” said Mumtaz Khan, another voter.

In Zurimanz village which is located on the banks of Wular lake, many people, especially elderly population, don't know Rashid has been jailed.

“I could have casted my vote for him had I known that he is behind bars and seeking votes,” said Ghulam Kadir, 70, adding,“I saw his picture on the candidates contesting list but I had already made-up my mind to vote for a particular party.”

While father in Jail, both the siblings had created a storm in the North Kashmir electoral constituency that saw a tight contest between the Peoples conference, National Conference and Awami Ittehad Party of Engineer Rashid.

Firdous Baba, Chief Spokesperson J&K Awami Ittehad Party told Kashmir Observer that they were very choosy in selecting the areas due to the paucity of the time and decided to focus on those areas only which have good habitation of people.

He said while the AIP had a small social media team, however all were volunteers and didn't charge a penny.

“Our social media team was not organised like other parties but they worked day and night to reach-out to the people,” Baba told Kashmir Observer.

He further said unlike other parties, they got very less time for campaigning as they were uncertain whether their nomination form will be accepted or not.

However, political analysts argue that this might hit the AIP as both NC and PDP have dedicated voter cadres in every nook and corner of the valley.

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