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PDP-Congress wins byelections

By Shujaat Bukhari



WINNERS ALL: The Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed (right), with the People's Democratic Party leader, Tariq Hameed Qarra, in Srinagar on Saturday. — Photo: AP

SRINAGAR, OCT. 16. The Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, was among the four candidates of the People's Democratic Party-Congress coalition who was elected today in the byelections for Pahalgam, Batamaloo (Kashmir) and Basohli and Akhnoor (Jammu) Assembly seats.

The PDP wrested the Batamaloo seat from the National Conference for the first time.

Mr. Sayeed was declared elected from the Pahalgam Assembly segment defeating his nearest rival Rafi Ahmed Mir of the National Conference by a margin of 5,174 votes. Mr. Sayeed polled 9,056 votes while Mr. Mir got 3,882 votes.

The constituency had recorded a turnout of only 21 per cent. This is the first time in the last 37 years that Mr. Sayeed has won an election to the Assembly from the Kashmir valley.

He contested the Assembly election this time after a gap of 17 years. But he was elected to the Lok Sabha from the Anantnag parliamentary constituency in 1998 as a Congress candidate.

The Pahalgam seat was vacated recently by the PDP president, Mehbooba Mufti, who was elected to the Lok Sabha. Now Mr. Sayeed is the member of the Legislative Council. Interestingly, Mr. Mir lost the election for the third time in succession.

Low turnout

The PDP's Tariq Hameed Qarra defeated Irfan Ahmed Shah of the National Conference by a margin of 3,268 votes securing 6,856 votes. Mr. Shah polled 3,581 votes.

Batamaloo also witnessed a low turnout of 12 per cent, but the turnout was significantly higher compared to 4 per cent in the 2002 Assembly elections.

The party's victory in the Batamaloo Assembly segment came as a surprise for political observers. Not only had the PDP won the first seat out of eight in Srinagar city but the National Conference lost the seat for the first time in last six decades.

The National Conference has now only 27 seats in the 87-member Assembly.

The election to Batamaloo was necessitated by the death of the National Conference's senior leader, Mohiuddin Shah, a few months ago.

In the Jammu region, the coalition Government has retained its power as both the Congress candidates won from Basohli and Akhnoor segments.

In Akhnoor, Sham Lal Sharma of the Congress won the seat defeating Govind Ram Sharma (Independent) with a margin of 3,578 votes.

Kantar Andotra defeated Jadish Raja Sapulpa from the Basophile constituency with a margin of 3,785 votes. Both these seats were vacated with the election of Madan Lal Sharma and Chowdary Lal Singh to the Lok Sabha. And they managed ticket for their brother and wife respectively.

Manmohan hails Sayeed

The Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, has felicitated Mr. Sayeed on his victory in the byelection.

Dr. Singh conveyed his felicitations over phone and said that his victory and that of the other coalition candidates in the State was a clear mandate for the policies and programmes of the PDP-Congress coalition.

He said the two parties would carry forward their common minimum programme aimed at mitigating the sufferings of the people and ensuring rapid development.

The Chief Minister, in turn, congratulated the Prime Minister on the Congress' victory in Maharashtra and said that its policies had seen the party through in the Arunachal Pradesh Assembly elections earlier this month.

The Union Minister for Urban Development and Parliamentary Affairs, Ghulam Nabi Azad, telephoned the Chief Minister and conveyed his felicitations on his victory and the coalition winning all the four seats.

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