Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Saturday won the Anantnag by-election by over 12,000 votes. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh congratulated Mufti on her victory.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader, 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.
A formal announcement of Mehbooba's victory will be announced only after all the votes are counted, the officials said.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted:
Congratulations to J&K CM Mehbooba Mufti for the phenomenal victory in the Anantnag assembly by-election.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) June 25, 2016
Home Minister Rajnath Singh also congratulated Mehbooba Mufti.
Spoke to Jammu & Kashmir CM Mehbooba Mufti ji over the phone and congratulated her on her electoral win in Anantnag bypolls.
— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) June 25, 2016
This will be Mehbooba's fourth term in the Assembly.
Mehbooba Mufti was one of the eight candidates in the bypoll for Anantnag Assembly seat which was necessitated due to death of incumbent MLA and then chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed on January 7 this year.
Mehbooba Mufti assumed power after being sworn in as the Chief Minister of the PDP-BJP coalition government 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.
At present, Mehbooba Mufti represents the south Kashmir Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency in Parliament.
(With Agency inputs)