Kashmir chief minister wins election

The top official in Indian-controlled Kashmir won a by-election with a record margin, as a grenade attack by suspected Muslim rebels injured 16 people Thursday in the insurgency-wracked Himalayan territory, police said.

Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad of the Congress party defeated his rival of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party by 58,015 votes, according to results reported by Press Trust of India news agency.

It was the highest victory margin ever scored by an incumbent in that constituency, Bhaderwah, PTI said.

A record 59 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in Monday's by-elections for Bhaderwah and three other constituencies to fill four vacancies in the 81-seat assembly of India's Jammu-Kashmir state.

The government said the high turnout reflected a desire for peace in the state, and the rejection of a call for an election boycott by groups fighting for Muslim-majority Kashmir's independence from predominantly Hindu India, or its merger with neighboring Pakistan, which is mostly Islamic.

The conflict has claimed more than 67,000 lives since 1989, with near-daily violence.

On Thursday, suspected militants hurled a grenade near a bus station in the mountain resort of Pahalgam, injuring 16 people including eight tourists, said police officer Reyaz Ahmad.

No serious injuries were reported, and no rebel group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

Three of the four vacancies in the state legislature came up after one incumbent legislator was killed in a militant attack and two others changed parties and lost their seats.

The fourth vacancy resulted after Azad's cousin, Mohammad Sharief Niaz, resigned the Bhaderwah seat for Azad to contest, reports the AP.


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