Press Trust of India

Setback for former CMs Omar, Mehbooba Mufti as both lose LS polls

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Srinagar: The defeat in Lok Sabha polls has come as a setback for the political careers of former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti in view of their vows not to contest the upcoming assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir till it remains a Union Territory.

While Abdullah was defeated by former MLA and terror-funding accused Sheikh Abdul Rashid by a margin of nearly two lakh votes in Baramulla Lok Sabha seat, Mufti was trounced by Gujjar leader and National Conference (NC) candidate Mian Altaf Ahmad by nearly three lakh votes in Anatnag-Rajouri seat.

With the assembly elections likely to be held before September 30 this year, the defeats have raised a question mark on the participation of Abdullah and Mufti in these elections.

Both the leaders have, at several occasions, ruled out participating in assembly elections till Jammu and Kashmir remained a Union Territory.

“I have made it abundantly clear that in the current situation that J-K finds itself in, I am not contesting the assembly elections,” the 54-year-old Abdullah told PTI in an interview in April this year, adding that he had been saying this since 2020 and his position had not changed.

The PDP president has been a little more hardline in her approach on this issue.

“I am never going to participate in assembly election as long as Article 370 is not restored. Whenever I took oath as a member assembly, it was under two Constitutions – J&K Constitution and the Constitution of India – with two flags at the same time. Maybe it is foolish on my part but it is more of an emotional issue for me,” Mufti said in an interview with PTI last year.

While this was the first electoral defeat for Abdullah in 22 years, 65-year-old Mufti has now lost two elections back to back. She had lost the Lok Sabha polls in 2019 and 1999 as well.

This is the first loss in Lok Sabha polls for Abdullah.

The other prominent loser in this election was PDP youth president Waheed Para, who is also facing terror charges. Para lost to influential Shia leader Aga Roohullah in the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat.

On the other hand, Kashmir has sent three first-timers to Lok Sabha this year with Rashid, who is currently in Tihar jail in a terror-funding case, emerging as the giant slayer of Kashmir politics.

The former MLA, popularly known as Engineer Rashid, not only defeated Abdullah but pushed People’s Conference president Sajad Gani Lone to the third position.

Rashid (56) has been a popular figure among the people of his area in north Kashmir for raising human rights issues during his two terms as MLA from Langate in 2008 and 2014.

He had come a close third in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Rashid was arrested in 2019 by the NIA in connection with a terror funding case and has been in Tihar jail since then.

Besides Rashid, National Conference leaders Mian Altaf Ahmad and Aga Roohullah have defeated their more fancied rivals Mehbooba Mufti in Anantnag-Rajouri and Waheed Para in Srinagar, respectively.

The Gujjar leader has been a minister and MLA from Kangan in Ganderbal district for several terms and his selection as candidate for the newly carved Anantnag-Rajouri seat was a masterstroke by the NC leadership. Ahmad (67), who comes from a well-respected religious family and has a huge following among the Gujjars of Jammu and Kashmir, was initially reluctant to contest but was eventually persuaded by the party leadership.

The soft-spoken politician has a reputation of being an able administrator and has delivered in the past as minister in governments headed by Farooq Abdullah (1996-2002) and Omar Abdullah (2009-2014) in Jammu and Kashmir.

Roohullah, whose first step into politics was mired in controversy, will be the first Shia from Kashmir to go to the Lok Sabha since 1971.

Roohullah’s father Aga Syed Mehdi was killed by terrorists in an IED blast in 2000, forcing his young son to take a political plunge in 2002 assembly elections.

When Roohullah filed his nomination papers on the NC ticket, one of his relatives filed a complaint with the election authorities, claiming he was underage to contest the polls.

The complaint was dismissed and Roohullah won the election from Budgam seat. Both Mian Altaf Ahmad and Roohullah have not lost any election they contested so far.

The outspoken Roohullah did not hesitate to take on the party leadership when it decided to contest the District Development Council polls after the abrogation of Article 370.

And he reiterated his stand saying he will raise the issue of abrogation of Article 370 in the Parliament.

“I will raise the issue of what was snatched from us and we do not accept the decisions taken on August 5, 2019. I will vociferously take their voice to the Parliament and seek its restoration. This mandate increases my responsibility,” he added.

Press Trust of India

Press Trust of India is lead news agency of India

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