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PDP set to win most seats in valley, Omar shocked



Srinagar, Dec 23 (IANS) The PDP and the National Conference on Tuesday virtually swept the Kashmir Valley though Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was worsted in one of the two places where he contested.

Amid hung assembly predictions, the main contest between the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party was confined to the 46 constituencies in the valley.

In the outgoing 87-member assembly, the National Conference had 28 seats and PDP 21.

While the PDP of former chief minister Mufti Mohammed Saeed has made inroads into some National Conference bastions, the latter has surprised the PDP too.

Omar Abdullah’s victory from Beerwah is a shocker to the PDP, although he lost from Sonwar in Srinagar.

The two big surprises for the PDP came from north Kashmir’s Ganderbal district where the National Conference won both seats: Kangan and Ganderbal.

Ganderbal is a traditional National Conference bastion. But the PDP was tipped to win there after National Conference leader Omar Abdullah dumped it for Sonwar in Srinagar and Beerwah in central Kashmir.

The National Conference fielded Ashfaq Jabbar Sheikh from Ganderbal. He was seen as a weak candidate against Qazi Muhammad Afzal of PDP who had defeated Omar Abdullah in 2002, a defeat Omar avenged in 2008.

On Tuesday, Ashfaq Sheikh shocked the PDP by defeating Qazi but by just 432 votes.

Mian Altaf Ahmad of the National Conference, a senior Gujjar leader, was believed to be facing a serious challenge in Kangan. Mian proved pundits wrong by retaining the seat and defeating PDP’s Bashir Ahmad Mir.

In the eight seats of Srinagar district, all won by the National Conference in 2008, the PDP won five: Amira Kadal, Sonwar, Hazratbal, Batmaloo and Zadibal. The National Conference took Idgah, Khanyar and Habba Kadal.

Getting five seats in Srinagar district is a major feat for the PDP. But the National Conference registered its presence for once in Anantnag district where it won the Pahalgam seat. The Congress won from Shangus and Devsar, both of which were held by the PDP.

Another significant victory for the National Conference has been from Sonawari in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district where outgoing legislator and minister Muhammad Akbar Lone won despite apprehensions.

Shia leader and National Conference legislator Aga Syed Ruhullah also surprised the PDP by retaining Badgam in central Kashmir which the PDP was confident of winning.

In the process, the National Conference reached the double digits although many had feared that it was likely to be decimated in the valley.

Forecasts that the PDP would get closer to a simple majority of 44 seats in the 87-member assembly were proved wrong.

PDP senior leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig said it would be a rude shock if his party did not win at least 35 seats, a figure which still eludes the party.

But no single party has managed to win enough seats in the assembly to take power on its own.

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