Mehbooba faces tri-corner contest in Anantnag by-poll

FILE: New Delhi: File photo of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed with his daughter Mehbooba Mufti. The sitting CM of Jammu and Kashmir Mufti Mohammad Sayeed passed away at AIIMS in New Delhi on January 7, 2015. Photo - PTI

FILE: New Delhi: File photo of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed with his daughter Mehbooba Mufti. The sitting CM of Jammu and Kashmir Mufti Mohammad Sayeed passed away at AIIMS in New Delhi on January 7, 2015.
Photo – PTI

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti is locked in a testing tri-polar contest facing the local heavyweights fielded by the Congress and National Conference for Anantnag by-poll. The seat, where polling began today morning, was held by her father and late CM Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who died January 7 this year. In what appears to be an intense contest, where Opposition is keen to give her a fight, the results will be declared on June 25.

57-year-old Mehbooba Mufti, who took over as the CM of Jammu and Kashmir on April 4 this year, is currently a Lok Sabha member from the south Kashmir constituency of Anantnag.

Mehbooba was elected to the lower house in 2014 general elections and chose not to contest the Assembly elections held later that year. Though, she was the chief campaigner of her party, the PDP.

On the other hand, the Opposition camp too is keen to make a contest out of the by-polls.

While the Congress party has fielded Hilal Ahmad Shah, who secured more than 10 thousand votes against Mufti Sayeed in the Assembly polls, JK National Conference has nominated Iftikhar Misger to take on the Chief Minister.

In the assembly polls, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had got 16,983 votes as against 10,955 secured by Congress party’s Hilal Ahmad Shah, followed by 2403 votes of NC’s Iftikhar Misger. Though there is no official tie-up between the two opposition parties, any collective manoeuvre by them may give tough fight to the sitting Chief Minister.

But history seems to be loaded in the favour of Mehbooba Mufti.

She has never lost an Assembly election and her only electoral defeat so far was in 1999 Lok Sabha elections when she lost to arch rival and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah.

Mehbooba has been elected to the state assembly three times in the past 20 years with her first victory coming in 1996 elections from Bijbehara segment as a Congress candidate. After floating PDP, she had won the 2002 Assembly polls from Pahalgam and in 2008, she won Wachi assembly seat in south Kashmir’s Shopian district.

PDP had won 28 seats while its post-poll ally BJP got 25 seats. On the other hand, Omar Abdullah’s NC got 15 and Congress could bag only 12 seats.

In power for more than an year, the ruling alliance has been a subject of intense speculation given ideologically disparate positions on several fragile issues like Article 370, AFSPA and state autonomy between the PDP and BJP. It took a long negotiation between the two to resume the alliance after demise of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.