For former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, the national election results will not only decide her membership of the Lok Sabha. It will also weigh on her party’s prospects ahead of the Assembly elections in the state.
The Peoples Democratic Party chief contested from the Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency against 17 other candidates.
The daughter of Peoples Democratic Party founder Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, Mehbooba Mufti became the state’s first woman chief minister in 2016. In the 2014 polls, Mufti won the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat but it has been vacant since she took over as Jammu and Kashmir chief minister.
A bye-election for the constituency scheduled for April 2017 was delayed after eight people were killed in violence during Srinagar bye-polls earlier that month.
Mufti was free to contest the Lok Sabha elections again after she resigned as chief minister in June 2018, in the wake of the collapse of the coalition government her party had formed with the Bharatiya Janata Party.
The Anantnag Parliamentary constituency voted in three phases – on April 23, 29 and May 6. Mufti was up against Congress’ Ghulam Ahmad Mir and the National Conference’s Hasnain Masoodi. The BJP has fielded Sofi Mohammad Yousuf from the seat. However, according to Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, his party and the National Conference are in a “friendly contest”. Azad said there would be no “cut-throat contest” between the two parties.
The Anantnag constituency comprises Anantnag, Shopian, Kulgam and Pulwama, the four districts that have seen increased violence over the last few years. These four districts are also strongholds of the Peoples Democratic Party. The government increased deployment of security forces in the districts on polling days as security was a prime concern following the terror attack on the Central Reserve Police Force convoy on February 14 in Pulwama.
Despite this, Anantnag recorded a low overall turnout of 8.76%. This was significantly lower than the 28.54% recorded during the 2014 Lok Sabha election and could hurt affect Mufti’s chances of winning.
Mufti has strongly opposed the revocation of special status for Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution. “If you scrap [Article] 370, your relation with Jammu and Kashmir will be over,” Mufti had said on March 30. “Because if you have given us a special position in the Constitution of India and you break that position, then we will have to rethink whether we would even want to stay with you without conditions.”
The BJP in its poll manifesto has promised to repeal Articles 370 and 35A, which grants special rights and privileges to the citizens of the state. In February, Mufti had warned the Centre that interfering with Article 35A would have “serious and far-reaching” consequences in the state. “Don’t play with fire; don’t fiddle with Article 35A, else you will see what you haven’t seen since 1947, if it’s attacked then I don’t know which flag people of J&K will be forced to pick up instead of the tricolour,” she said, according to ANI.
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