Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti Saturday won the bypoll from south Kashmir’s Anantnag assembly constituency, securing over 12,000 more votes than her closest rival.
A victory in Anantnag was essential for Mehbooba to get elected to the assembly within six months of her taking oath as chief minister.
The margin of victory, said PDP leaders, should provide some relief and “confidence” to Mehbooba , whose party has been facing opposition heat for entering into an alliance with the BJP in the state.
Mehbooba secured 17,698 votes, followed by 5,615 votes by Congress candidate Hilal Shah. NC candidate Iftikhar Misger bagged 2,811 votes. Nine contestants were in the fray.
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As the counting was going on, some Congress supporters protested against the state government and alleged that some EVMs did not have a seal. Later, Congress candidate Shah lodged an official complaint about the EVMs with the election observers.
The Anantnag seat had fallen vacant after the death of former chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed in January. Saturday’s victory, PDP leaders said, is a “thumbs-up” to the PDP-BJP alliance in the state.
“For us, it is a big boost. It is an endorsement of the alliance agenda by the people of Anantnag,” PDP chief spokesman and former Parliament member Mehbooba Baig told The Sunday Express.
“Even though the opposition used every tactic to malign the image of the PDP, Mehbooba ji won her seat by a comfortable margin,” he said.
On Congress allegations that some EVMs had been rigged, he said, “They are doing it to save face.”
PDP youth president Waheed Parra, who had actively campaigned for Mehbooba, said, “This victory is an answer to the opposition, which was badmouthing our policies just for the sake of politics.” He added that “the youth and women voters” had played a crucial role in Mehbooba’s victory.
Mehbooba doubled the victory margin from the last time, when her father had won by over 6,000 votes. On Twitter, Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated her for the “phenomenal victory”.
Senior Congress leader and MLA Ghulam Nabi Monga alleged that the PDP used official machinery to win the bypoll. “Ministers and other officials used all possible tactics to influence voters,” Monga said.
Despite separatists calling for a poll boycott, around 34 per cent of the voters turned up at polling booths.