Opp keen to give Mehbooba a fight on her father’s turf

Rajat Kain

FILE: Bijbehara (J&K): PDP president Mehbooba Mufti with her family members at the grave of her father and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed during congregational prayers on the ocassion of his fourth mourning day in Bijbehara, January 10, 2016. Photo - PTI

FILE: Bijbehara (J&K): PDP president Mehbooba Mufti with her family members at the grave of her father and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed during congregational prayers on the ocassion of his fourth mourning day in Bijbehara, January 10, 2016.
Photo – PTI

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Wednesday filed her nomination papers for by-poll to Anantnag assembly segment, which fell vacant post the demise of her father and then CM Mufti Mohammad Sayeed on January 7 this year. In what appears to be an intense tri-corner contest, Congress and National Conference too have fielded local heavyweights to take on the sitting Chief Minister.

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.

“People showed their trust in Mufti sahab and gave him an opportunity to be the chief minister. I am hopeful that people will again repose their faith in him and give me an opportunity to complete the work left by Mufti sahab,” she said after filing her nomination papers.

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.

Detailed statistics of polling in Anantnag Legislative Assembly in 2014 Assembly polls.  (source: Election Commission of India) Photo - RSTV

Detailed statistics of polling in Anantnag Legislative Assembly in 2014 Jammu and Kashmir Assembly polls.
(source: Election Commission of India)
Photo – RSTV

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.