India Polls: Holding elections in Jammu and Kashmir itself is a big deal

India Polls: Holding elections in Jammu and Kashmir itself is a big deal

Srinagar: Authorities in Jammu and Kashmir are “very satisfied” that elections have been held, that too without any major incident, in the Srinagar Parliamentary constituency despite the dismal voter turnout.

The much-awaited second phase of the Lok Sabha polls in J&K saw voting at Udhampur and Srinagar on 18 April. The total voter turnout on the day was 45.7 per cent but the figure was largely due to the 70 per cent voting at the Udhampur Parliamentary constituency in the Jammu division.

Srinagar, meanwhile, witnessed a paltry 14.1 per cent voting.

“It was not an overwhelming voter turnout but we are very satisfied for two reasons,” J&K chief election officer (CEO) Shailendra Kumar said.

“One, the poll numbers today are double of what they were in 2017 (by-election for Srinagar). The second thing is that we have had peaceful elections and that is very satisfying. I had hoped that the voter turnout would be slightly higher but it’s ok,” he said.

“I have spent almost 7-8 years in the Valley. In the given scenario, if it (elections) is conducted peacefully in Kashmir and if it is over then God is kind,” Kumar said, adding that the state election body and the security forces had put in a great effort in holding the elections.

This time around, violence was reported at many places but the situation remained largely peaceful.

“During the election process, security forces came under severe stone pelting from miscreants who had congregated at various places,” a state government statement read. “However, security forces while dealing with such hostile stone pelting mobs exercised utmost restraint.”

Worrying over low turnout

While the state government might feel satisfied for holding the elections, the low voter turnout might be a long term problem with the J&K assembly elections approaching soon.

So far, elections have been held in four of the six Lok Sabha seats in the state — Baramulla and Jammu voted in the first phase on 11 April. The voter turnout at Jammu was 72.16 per cent whereas it was 34.61 per cent in Baramulla. Elections are yet to be held in Anantnag, which votes in three phases, and the Ladakh Lok Sabha constituency.

Kumar too admitted that the voting percentages in the three districts — Srinagar, Ganderbal and Budgam — which make up the Srinagar parliamentary constituency, were lower than what was expected.

Srinagar district recorded a voting percentage of 7.69 percent, Ganderbal saw 16.75 percent while in Budgam, the figure was 21.6 percent.

The figure, however, is an improvement from the Srinagar Lok Sabha by-poll in 2017 when things went south from the morning of the voting day, 9 April, as locals in Budgam district clashed with security forces posted at polling booths. The day witnessed massive clashes all over Srinagar, resulting in the death of eight civilians. The voting percentage was a mere 7 percent.

Sourced from The Print

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India PollsJammu and Kashmirlow voter turnout