The BJP’s candidate from Amira Kadal, Dr Hina Bhat, triggered a row after she allegedly slapped a presiding officer, Malik Suhail, inside a polling station at Chanapora, on the outskirts of the city, during polling on Sunday. The presiding officer alleged that Bhat and her supporters captured the booth for 15 minutes.
Bhat, however, accused the presiding officers of helping the PDP candidate by casting “bogus” votes. Referring to the 1987 poll defeat of Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin, then contesting as a Muslim United Front candidate, she said, “I was very young at that time when elections were rigged and Syed Salahuddin was made to lose. The same thing is happening again.”
Speaking to The Indian Express, Bhat, who is seen as the face of the BJP in Kashmir, said: “I caught two presiding officers at Natipora and Chanapora casting bogus votes in favor of the PDP.’’
She alleged that besides her constituency, BJP polling agents were not allowed to enter the polling stations in many other areas in the Valley. “The officers delayed entry of BJP polling agents at many polling stations to facilitate rigging. This was done to help the PDP, because it is a direct fight between the PDP and BJP in Kashmir,’’ she said.
According to officials, when Bhat visited the Methan-A polling station in Chanapora on Sunday morning, she accused the polling officers of casting votes in favor of her opponents. She then reportedly slapped the presiding officer in the presence of voters. This was followed by a clash between her supporters, personal security officers and the voters who were waiting outside the polling station.
“She slapped me for no reason,” said Suhail, adding that Bhat’s supporters captured the booth for 15 minutes. He said that when Bhat entered the polling station, he was showing some women voters how to use the EVM. “Suddenly, the BJP candidate came and accused me of helping people to vote for her rival party,” he said.
However, Bhat denied the charges. “Why should I slap any official? The presiding officer and supporters of other parties attacked my PSOs and workers. Two of the workers have been hospitalised are in a serious condition,’’ she said. Bhat said the BJP has lodged a complaint with the poll panel.
Police said they haven’t registered any case so far. “We are ascertaining the facts… if the presiding officer approaches us, we will register a case,” said police officials.
Reacting to the reports, PDP spokesperson Nayeem Akhtar said: “This is a bad debut for the candidate and for the party in the Kashmir.”
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweeted: “The BJP candidate in Srinagar who earlier threatened to pick up a gun over Art 370 now slaps a polling officer. Well done @BJP4India.”
Meanwhile, police on Sunday registered a case against the BJP’s Shopian candidate, Javid Qadri, for allegedly assaulting a polling agent inside a polling station in Moshwara, Shopian.