Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Sunday was declared the winner from southern Anantnag constituency in Jammu and Kashmir Assembly by-poll, which was hardly fought seriously by the opposition.
The segment with over 84, 000 voters was earlier represented by her father and predecessor Mufti Muhammad Sayeed who died in January this year thus necessitating the by-poll. Only 33.84 per cent voters turned up for the by-poll which was held on Wednesday, and the low turnout was termed by separatists as their ‘victory’ and endorsement of their poll boycott call.
The 57-year-old Mufti who is also the present head of regional Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) polled 17,710 votes while her nearest rival Congress’ Hilal Shah got 5,616 votes. National Conference (NC), the arch rival of the PDP, finished only third with its candidate Iftikhar Misgar polling only 2,811 votes.
Mufti is currently an MP from Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency and modalities required her to be elected into either house of J&K legislature within six months of her taking over as the Chief Minister on April 4 this year. She faced a three-corner contest in the by-poll with Shah of the Congress and Misger of the NC. Though there were half a dozen independents in the fray, all of them proved to be insignificant and many even losing out on their deposits.
She will now quit as the Anantnag MP and there are indications that her only brother, Tassaduq Sayeed, a Cinematographer in the Hollywood and Bollywood who has lensed Bollywood blockbusters like Omkara and Kaminey, may be asked by the PDP to contest from the Muftis’ home constituency.
Mufti while extending her gratitude to the voters of Anantnag for giving her a ‘decisive and resounding’ mandate to implement the ‘mission and vision’ of her father Sayeed said, “I wish to extend my heartfelt gratitude to the emancipated voters of Anantnag and our party cadres for their support and their hard work. She asserted, “This victory belongs to you, the people of Anantnag and the people of Jammu and Kashmir on whose support I will be counting immensely in the days and months to come to pull the State out of the morass and usher it into an era of peace and prosperity.”
She also said, “It is an honour and a privilege to be elected from a seat which was represented by my father and I’m heartened that the voters of Anantnag have put their trust in me to continue the work on his behalf.” She made a special mention of Kashmiri Pandits who, she said, voted decisively in her favour. “I’m also grateful to my Pandit brethren for having voted decisively in my favour,” she said.
Terming Mufti’s victory as “huge” and “definite”, the PDP said the people have reposed their faith in Mufti Sayeed’s idea of sewing together PDP-BJP alliance “for the larger good and development of the State.” It also said that the voters “have not fallen for the gimmicks played by the opposition. The party had special thanks for Kashmiri Pandits who, according to it, voted en-mass in favour of Mufti.
However, both the Congress and the NC and others boycotted counting of votes after allegations that Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) were tampered with. Congress candidate Shah, while protesting inside the counting hall, alleged that EVMs “were without seal and signatures on them didn’t match”.He termed it a brazen election rigging by the PDP and said that the administration played a “very dirty role” in manipulating the results.
He also alleged that Anantnag’s district magistrate, Abid Rashid Shah, threatened to jail the protesting candidates. But Shah strongly denied it asserting that the Congress candidate and his supporters had tried to break an EVM and when he tried to discipline them they started protesting.
Meanwhile, Anantnag town and its peripheries observed a shutdown on Saturday after the security forces were accused of desecrating a local mosque amid clashes with groups of irate youth on Friday. The protesting townsfolk were demanding action against the ‘erring’ security personnel involved in the alleged desecration of the place of worship.