SRINAGR: On a day when voters in Anantnag Assembly constituency sealed her fate in ballot boxes, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Wednesday hit out at Muslim clergy for raising “unnecessary controversies” on Article 370.
People in Anantnag Assembly segment today exercised their franchise for bye-election to the constituency from which Mehbooba is seeking election to J&K Assembly.
The seat had fallen vacant after the death of PDP patron and former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed on January 7 this year.
Mehbooba took over as first woman chief minister of J&K on April 4 this year and it was mandatory for her to become member of J&K legislature within six months.
Besides Mehbooba, seven other candidates including Congress party’s Hilal Ahmad Shah and National Conference’s Iftikhar Misgar are in the fray.
“Around 34 percent voters exercised their franchise in bye-elections, which concluded this evening peacefully,” J&K’s Chief Electoral officer (CEO) Shantmanu said.
He said out of total 84067 electors including 4229 migrants voters, a total of 28446 cast their votes.
“Out of 42840 male voters and 41227 female voters, 15384 male, 13062 female and 638 migrant voters exercised their franchise,” Shantmanu said.
He said 102 polling booths were setup at 61 designated locations which included 52 hypersensitive and 50 sensitive polling stations.
The counting of votes would be held on June 25.
The voting was brisk in rural pockets of the constituency, where people including men and women waited in long queues to cast their votes. However, in the main town, less voting was witnessed. There were also stray incidents of stone pelting in some parts of the Anantnag town.
As her fate was being sealed in the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) by the voters, Mehbooba hit out at Muslim clergy of the Valley while replying to debate on grants of departments under her charge in Legislative Assembly this afternoon.
“I don’t understand why Muslim clerics discuss Article 370, industrial policy and Handwara killing inside the mosques. What is their business with Article 370,” she said.
She said is it necessary only to speak against molestation of girls when men in uniform are involved in the crime. “The clerics do not talk about harassment of women and girls in the society nor do they mention enviromental degradation in their sermons.”
“It was not for the preachers and clerics to look after Article 370 but for the mainstream political parties of the state,” Mehbooba said.
Asserting that she would protect Article 370, the CM said the PDP-BJP coalition government in the State is committed to protect Article 370, which is lifeline of relation between India and Jammu and Kashmir.
“The amendments effected in new industrial policy were necessitated to protect the special status of J&K,” she said while referring to deletion of controversial section from the policy, which allowed non locals to purchase land in the State for setting up industrial units.
Mehbooba also lashed out at opposition National Conference and Congress for questioning her party's alliance with the saffron party.
While defending her party’s alliance with BJP, she said the agenda of alliance was her late father Mufti Sayeed’s decision and she is firm on his decision.
“My father took a tough decision for betterment and welfare of people of the State,” she said adding her party’s alliance is still not digested by the opposition parties.