National Conference (NC) chief Farooq Abdullah is on his way to winning the Srinagar bypoll and regaining his pride after his shock defeat from the same constituency in 2014.
Abdullah was leading by over 9,000 votes over his closest rival, the PDP’s Nazir Ahmad Khan, PTI reported.
Abdullah lost in 2014 to the then PDP candidate Tariq Karra, who is now with the Congress. In fact, the Srinagar seat fell vacant after Karra resigned from the PDP. He later joined the Congress which was in an electoral alliance with the NC. Khan, the PDP’s candidate this time around, was in the Congress until last month.
While voting in the bypoll was first held on April 9, the polls were postponed because of violent clashes with security forces led to the death of eight people. Polling was again held on Thursday and an abysmal two percent of the constituency electorate turned out to vote. It was the lowest in the history of the state.
A total of nine candidates were in the fray for the bypoll seat.
Unlike during the Lok Sabha and assembly polls of 2014, the roads were mostly deserted on Thursday. Vehicles too went off the roads and the few pedestrians and motorists were checked at random by security forces, IANS reported.
In as many as 18 polling stations, not a single voter turned up. In four others, only one vote each was cast. But unlike Sunday, there was no violence, barring one incident of stone pelting by youths at Nasrullah Pora, a Shia-majority area about 30 km from Srinagar, IANS said.
The Congress, which is backing Abdullah, blamed the state government and the Election Commission for the miserable turnout of voters.
Nazir Ahmed, a voter in Chadoora in Budgam, said he voted despite separatist calls for an election boycott “because it is important to keep the RSS out” of power. The reference was to the PDP, which rules Jammu and Kashmir along with the RSS-affiliated BJP.
A young man who did not vote said he stayed away because he and his friends were “very angry” with the PDP “over the way it has behaved with us”.