Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti was leading by nearly 3,000 votes against her nearest rival as counting in this south Kashmir assembly constituency was briefly disrupted on Saturday after Congress supporters alleged that bogus votes were being counted in the name of postal ballots.
But the vote count resumed immediately even as dozens of supporters of Congress candidate Hilal Ahmad Shah shouted anti-government slogans and protested over “unsealed” postal ballots.
Shah alleged that postal ballots were “not properly sealed and were basically bogus votes”.
The returning officer refused to entertain his protest, leading to a ruckus inside the counting hall of Government Degree College, Anantnag and disruption in the vote count.
The counting resumed shortly after the Congress activists walked out but continued their protest in the lawns of the college.
After the first two rounds of counting, Mehbooba Mufti was said to have polled nearly 4,200 votes and Shah had a little over 1,200.
The counting of votes polled on June 22 began in the morning and the results should be known before midday.
Mehbooba Mufti of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is one of the eight contestants. Among the others are Shah of the Congress and Iftikhar Hussain Misgar of the National Conference.
The constituency has over 84,000 eligible voters and and nearly 28,500 voted on Wednesday despite a poll boycott called by separatist politicians and militants.
The by-election was necessitated because of the death of the then Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed who represented the constituency in the assembly, which has an effective strength of 87.
Sayeed passed away in New Delhi on January 7 after a brief illness.
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.