NC-PDP MLAs Trade Blows

13 February 2009
Greater Kashmir

Jammu: Noisy scenes were witnessed during the Rajya Sabha elections for Jammu and Kashmir’s two seats on Friday, when National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party legislators entered into a scuffle over the issue of cancellation of the vote of former deputy speaker and NC leader, Muhammad Akbar Lone, who ‘inadvertently’ gave second preference vote to PDP candidate, Muhammad Altaf Bukhari, during polling. As the polling started at 9 in the morning with PDP MLA, Javed Mustafa Mir, casting the first vote, the process remained by and large smooth till evening but ended on a sad note after a rift between NC and PDP legislators over the vote of NC legislator, Lone. Lone came to cast his vote at about 3:15 p.m. and got his vote slip from the polling officer. While giving his preferences, he gave the first preference to NC candidate, Dr Farooq Abdullah, and for the next preference vote, he ‘unintentionally’ highlighted the name of PDP candidate, Syed Altaf Bukhari. This was immediately noticed by the party whip, Mubarak Gul, who asked Lone to correct his ‘mistake.’ When Lone tried to correct his mistake, the PDP polling agent, Peerzada Mansoor (MLA Shangus), raised an objection. Mansoor was stressing that, with the mistake committed by the NC MLA, the vote had become invalid. Senior PDP leader and former deputy chief minister, Muzaffar Husain Baig, present there on the occasion, referred to various laws on the issue. The heated exchange between legislators of both the parties lasted for at least half an hour. After going through various law books and discussing the issue with leaders of both the parties, the Chief Electoral Officer, BR Sharma, allowed NC MLA to cast his vote. Talking to media persons later, Sharma said the main objection of PDP legislators was that the vote of Akbar Lone had become invalid, which was clarified after consulting rules and discussing the matter with the senior leaders. Asked whether the vote was counted, Sharma said, “It was counted as a valid vote”. He said that theoretically it was not objectionable but when the objection was raised it became the duty of the concerned officer to ascertain the legal options. “But during the counting, it was never called into question,” he said. Commenting on the issue, the PDP MLA, Nizamudin Bhat, alleged that the coalition parties tried to suppress the opposition. “How a senior legislator, having a vast experience of more than 30 years, committed such a mistake? He should be made accountable for that,” he said.