Srinagar, April 15
National Conference-Congress candidate Farooq Abdullah today won the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat for the third time, defeating Nazir Ahmad Khan of the ruling PDP by a margin of 10,775 votes, polling 48,554 votes. Abdullah had earlier represented this constituency in 1980 and 2009. In 2014, he was defeated by PDP’s Tariq Hameed Karra, who resigned from the party and the Lok Sabha following differences with the Mehbooba Mufti government over the handling of the unrest in the Valley. Hence, a byelection had to be held. Counting at the highly guarded Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC), overlooking the Dal Lake, began at 8 am and the results were out by late afternoon. In all, 90,759 of the 12,61,395 voters exercised their franchise. While the byelection was held on April 9, re-polling was held at 38 polling stations on April 13. Soon after the results were declared, Abdullah demanded that the PDP-BJP government be sacked and Governor’s rule be imposed in the state. He blamed the administration for “completely failing to secure a peaceful election” that had been marred by violence, claiming eight lives. He also demanded that byelection to the Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency in South Kashmir, which has been deferred to May 25, be held under Governor’s rule, “otherwise we don’t see justice happening”. The seat was held by Mehbooba Mufti, who had to vacate it to enter state politics. The National Conference president, a former Union Minister in the UPA-II government, said he would now work towards initiating a dialogue with all stakeholders, including separatists and Pakistan. “There is no way forward other than dialogue, which must be started at all costs,” he said. On the dismal poll percentage, he said: “It does not make any difference. What do you say to the people who have voted?” On Article 370, he said the NC stand had always been that it must be restored to the 1953 level.