Srinagar bypoll: Farooq Abdullah's win may rejuvenate his career, but voter boycott sends Centre a message

The victory of Farooq Abdullah from Srinagar's Lok Sabha seat will rejuvenate the political career of the National Conference patron, who used every card from separatism to a soft pro-Pakistan line ahead of elections.

File picture of Farooq Abdullah. AFP

File picture of Farooq Abdullah. AFP

But the lower voter turnout and the number of killings on the election day dampened the otherwise festive atmosphere for the National Conference and its workers in its party headquarters in Srinagar.

“For seven percent turnout, 8 people, including a 15-year-old boy, were killed in firing by forces. Do you think they will celebrate?” Anees Ahmad, a shopkeeper outside the party headquarters Nawa-i-Subh Complex near Zero Bridge in Srinagar, asked Firstpost.

The mood in and around the National Conference office in Srinagar was sombre. A few party workers gathered around to celebrate the victory of their leader, but National Conference leaders soon stopped the supporters from raising slogans and women from singing and dancing.

Inside, Farooq Abdullah appealed to the President of India to impose Governor's rule in the state, following the civilian killings and violence in different parts of the Valley. “The state government has completely failed to conduct the elections in a peaceful manner. They have killed youth and put the lives of the people in danger,” Abdullah said, at a press conference.

Abdullah, the three-time Jammu and Kashmir CM, won the Srinagar parliamentary seat by a comfortable margin: He was over 10,000 votes ahead of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Nazir Ahmad Khan. Although nine candidates were in fray, the main battle was between the NC patron and Khan.

“Before Dr Farooq Abdullah starts celebrating his 'victory' in Srinagar by-elections, he ought to remember that it is neither NC's victory nor PDP's defeat. The historic poll boycott is a statement, a strong message sent by the people of Kashmir against the State and status quo on Kashmir. Rest is a political theatre!” political commentator Gowhar Geelani said.

The Srinagar Lok Sabha seat fell vacant after the sitting MP Tariq Hameed Karra resigned after differences with the party over its alliance with the BJP, and the failure of the state government to contain violence and the killings during the 2016 unrest. Karra later joined the Congress party. Abdullah lost the seat to Karra in 2014.

The polling for Srinagar was marred by widespread violence. Eight people were shot dead by paramilitary troopers and police and over 150 were injured in clashes between people and forces on polling day (9 April), which saw a mere seven percent voter turnout. On Thursday, re-polling was held for 38 booths which saw violence, but only 702 people turned up; in many booths, not a single vote was cast.

Idrees Lone, a resident of Srinagar, wrote on Facebook: “If Farooq Abdullah wins and wants to become a hero in Kashmir, he should resign on moral grounds. Six percent people have voted. The rest stayed away. That should give him the hint.”

The victory of Abdullah from the Srinagar seat, considering his poll campaign, in which he expressed sympathy with stone-pelters and appealed to the Jamaat-e-Islami to come out and vote against the “fascist forces”, only reflects the defeat of the mainstream politics in the Valley.


Updated Date: Apr 15, 2017 17:40 PM

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