Kashmir’s new MPs: Rasheed, Ruhullah, Mian Altaf

| Updated: 05 June, 2024 5:35 pm IST
TNI Illustration by Dinesh Singh

SRINAGAR: In a stunning upset, jailed independent candidate Abdul Rashid Sheikh, also known as Engineer Rasheed, who faces terror charges, defeated former Chief Minister and National Conference president Omar Abdullah by over 200,000 votes in the Baramulla Parliamentary constituency.

People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president and former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti also suffered a significant defeat, losing to NC candidate Mian Altaf Ahmad by over 280,000 votes in the Anantnag-Rajouri constituency. Meanwhile, NC leader Aga Syed Ruhullah Mehdi triumphed over PDP candidate Waheed Ur Rehman Para in Srinagar by a margin of over 180,000 votes.

Contrary to expectations of a close contest between Abdullah and Peoples Conference (PC) leader Sajjad Gani Lone, Independent and jailed leader Engineer Rasheed emerged victorious in Baramulla. Rasheed, a former two-time MLA from Langate in Kupwara, has been imprisoned in Tihar Jail for five years on terror funding charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

Sheikh, leading the Awami Ittehad Party, chose to run as an independent candidate. He garnered 472,481 votes, defeating Omar Abdullah, who secured 268,339 votes, by a margin of 204,142 votes. Sajjad Lone received only 173,239 votes. Credit for Sheikh’s victory is attributed to the vigorous and emotional campaign led by his sons, Abrar Rasheed and Asrar Rasheed, across Baramulla.

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Sheikh maintained a lead from the first round of counting, which continued to widen with each subsequent round. A resident of Langate Handwara in Kupwara district, Sheikh began his political career in 2008 after resigning from his engineering job with the Jammu and Kashmir Government to contest Assembly elections as an independent candidate. Before entering politics, he was a prominent human rights advocate in his region and a close aide of Sajad Lone’s father, Abdul Gani Lone.

Sheikh’s son Abrar Rashid expressed gratitude to the constituents for supporting his father. “I am indebted to the people for supporting my jailed father,” he said. Omar Abdullah, conceding defeat, stated, “It’s time to accept the inevitable. Congratulations to Engineer Rasheed for his victory in North Kashmir. I don’t believe his victory will hasten his release from prison nor will the people of North Kashmir get the representation they deserve, but the voters have spoken, and in a democracy, that’s all that matters.”

Engineer Rasheed led in several Assembly segments, including Karnah, Trehgam, Kupwara, Lolab, Langate, Sopore, Rafiabad, Uri, Baramulla, Gulmarg, Wagoora-Kreeri, Sonawari, Bandipora, and Beerwah, while Omar Abdullah led in Gurez, Pattan, and Budgam constituencies. Sajjad Lone led in Handwara.

In Anantnag-Rajouri, Mian Altaf Ahmad secured 521,836 votes, defeating Mehbooba Mufti by a margin of 281,794 votes. Mehbooba received only 240,042 votes, followed by Apni Party’s Zafar Iqbal Khan Manhas with 142,195 votes. Ahmad thanked voters for their trust, vowing to fulfill his campaign promises. “This victory by a substantial margin made Anantnag-Rajouri a prestigious seat in the Lok Sabha elections. All eyes were on this seat,” he said. Mehbooba, conceding defeat, expressed respect for the voters’ decision and gratitude to her supporters.

NC candidate Mian Altaf led in Rajouri, Nowshera, Thannamandi-Darhal, Budhal, Surankote, Mendhar, and Poonch Parliamentary segments of Anantnag-Rajouri constituency.

In Srinagar, Aga Syed Ruhulla Mehdi won by a significant margin of 180,000 votes, securing 356,866 votes against his PDP rival’s 168,450 votes. Apni Party candidate Muhammad Ashraf Mir received only 65,954 votes. Ruhullah vowed to advocate for the restoration of rights taken from the people of J&K and to uphold his ideology. Commenting on Abdullah’s defeat, Ruhullah emphasized the need to accept the people’s verdict and committed to addressing issues affecting detained youth.

NC supporters celebrated their victories in Anantnag, Srinagar, and Budgam, while Engineer Rasheed’s supporters celebrated in Langate, Handwara. The NC candidate from Srinagar led in several Assembly segments, including Kangan, Ganderbal, Hazratbal, Khanyar, Habba Kadal, Lal Chowk, Chanpora, Zadibal, Eidgah, Central Shalteng, Khansahib, Charar-e-Sharief, Chadoora, Pampore, Tral, and Shopian, while the PDP candidate led in Pulwama and Rajpora.

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