With an unassailable lead of over 12,000 votes, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti won the Anantnag bypoll and returned to the Jammu and Kashmir legislative assembly for a fourth term.
Mehbooba secured 17,701 votes against her nearest rival and Congress candidate Hilal Ahmad Shah’s 5,616 votes. National Conference candidate Iftikhar Misger was a distant third, polling 2,811 votes only, District Election officials said while declaring the results.
The 57-year-old was among eight candidates in the by-election for the assembly seat which fell vacant after the death of her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, the incumbent MLA and then chief minister.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Mehbooba “for the phenomenal victory” on Twitter while Union home minister Rajnath Singh spoke to her to extend his wishes.
Mehbooba was sworn in as the chief minister of the PDP-BJP coalition government on April 4, following the Mufti’s death on January 7 this year.
It is mandatory for a chief minister or any other minister in the state to become a member of either house of the state’s bicameral legislature within six months of being sworn in. At present, Mehbooba Mufti represents the south Kashmir Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency in parliament.
Mehbooba was first elected to the Assembly in 1996 on a Congress ticket from Bijbehara constituency. She won in 2002 from Pahalgam and again in 2008 from Wachi seat in Shopian district.
Congress alleges malpractice, disrupts counting
Earlier on Saturday, counting was temporarily suspended when Congress’ Hilal Ahmad Shah alleged that the electronic voting machines (EVMs) had been tampered with. The party demanded a deferment of counting in the constituency, “as the EVMs were found without seal”.
Accusing the state and the central governments of managing a lead in favour of Mehbooba Mufti, the party spokesman said, “The party strongly urges upon the Election Commission of India to depute observers in the counting hall to ascertain the factual position.”
With the returning officer refusing to entertain the protest, counting resumed amidf a ruckus inside the counting hall of Government Degree College in Anantnag.
Congress activists eventually walked out of the counting hall, but continued their protest on the college lawns.
(With inputs from agencies)