Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Saturday won the Anantnag by-election comfortably, defeating her nearest rival of the Congress by over 12,000 votes, even as the opposition cried foul and described her victory as the “murder of democracy”.
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader Mehbooba Mufti, who became Chief Minister on April 4, polled 17,700 votes while Congress’ Hilal Ahmad Shah managed only 5,600 votes of the nearly 28,500 votes polled on Wednesday amid a boycott called by separatist politicians and militants.
National Conference’s Iftikhar Hussain Misghar came a distant third with a little over 2,800 votes in the constituency that was once a bastion of his party.
Mehbooba Mufti’s victory margin was double that of her father, the late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who had in 2014 won by around 6,000 votes in the constituency.
Opposition candidates of the Congress and NC alleged that the Chief Minister “engineered” her victory by using the government machinery in her favour.
The Congress’ Shah alleged discrepancies in some Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) as they were “not sealed properly” and that postal ballots were counted as “bogus votes”.
“They have changed the voting machines. This is a murder of democracy. The election observers acted as dead wood,” Shah told IANS.
Congress and National Conference supporters earlier created a ruckus inside the counting hall, Government Degree College, Anantnag, by shouting anti-government slogans that briefly disrupted the vote count.
As the returning officer refused to entertain the protests, the opposition supporters led by Shah walked out and refused to be part of the counting.
The PDP, however, termed the protest as a frustration over defeat. PDP legislator Abdul Raheem Rather told IANS that the Congress had lost from “places where they had a good support”.
“This is expected from them,” Rather said, refuting the allegations of bogus votes.
Eight contestants contested from the constituency that has over 84,000 eligible voters.
The by-election was necessitated because of the death of then Chief Minister Sayeed who represented the constituency in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly that has an effective strength of 87.
Sayeed passed away in New Delhi on January 7 after a brief illness.
Mehbooba Mufti was sworn in as the first woman Chief Minister of the state on April 4. It is mandatory for a Chief Minister or any other minister in the state to become a member of either house of state’s bicameral legislature within six months of being sworn in.
Mehbooba Mufti represents the south Kashmir Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency in parliament. She will now have to resign her parliamentary seat.