Srinagar bypolls: Voter turnout of 7.14% is the lowest in the constituency in two decades
As per the government statistics, nearly 2 lakh new people had registered for voting for the two parliamentary seats of Anantnag and Srinagar.
Security force personnel shielded with helmets and batons ran after stone-pelting youth in Chara-i-Sharief, which had otherwise been witnessing the highest polling percentage in both the parliamentary and assembly elections previously. Hundreds of youth engaged in stone-pelting with the forces, who withdrew after the area witnessed a near total boycott.
Youth locked up polling staff in one of the polling stations in the area and rolled out barbed wire and burnt tyres to block the roads. Chips of stones lay strewn in the area. This marked a new trend in the parliamentary by-polls for Srinagar constituency which was held today. Stone pelting is no longer restricted to the city area of downtown and South Kashmir, but has spread across Kashmir.
Through the day, intense clashes were witnessed between youth and forces marking a low voter percentage of near 6.5 percent. Violence during the day came after campaigning remained low-pitch and the killings continued in the run up to the polls. After Hurriyat Conference had ended the spell of strikes over civilian killings which were witnessed in over seven months after the killing of HM militant commander, Burhan Muzafar Wani, on 7 July last year, the situation had returned to normal. Not only had business resumed, people had shown interest in registering as electors for the polls on two constituencies of Srinagar and Anantnag.
As per the government statistics, nearly 2 lakh new people had registered for voting for the two parliamentary seats of Anantnag and Srinagar. For both the parliamentary constituencies, the total number of registered electorate is near 27 lakh including the Kashmiri Pandit (KP) migrant voters, said an official. In Srinagar constituency a total of 12.6 lakh people registered as electorate while as the number was 13.4 lakh in Anantnag constituency. On the contrary in the 2014 parliament elections the number of electors was 12.05 lakh in Srinagar and 13.01 lakh in Anantang Lok Sabha constituency.
The voting percentage in Srinagar is the lowest ever recorded here after the onset of militancy in 1990s. During the 2014 election, the total turnout in the state in Lok Sabha polls was 49.5 percent, in 2009 the turnout was 39.86. In 2004, the turnout remained 22.7 percent. As per the statistics, in 1998 elections, the voter turnout was 30.16 percent in Srinagar constituency, while as it was 28.1 percent on Anantang seat. In 1999 elections 11.9 percent votes were cast in Srinagar parliamentary seat, while as the percentage was 14.3 in Anantang. The voter turnout in the election was significantly lower than what was registered in earlier polls. In 2014 parliament elections, Srinagar registered the turnout of 25.9 percent and Anantnag recorded 28.4 percent voting.
The low voting percentage and clashes were also reported from Beerwah, hometown of PDP candidate, Nazir Ahmad Khan, who is pitted against former chief minister and NC president, Farooq Abdullah, on the seat. On the Srinagar seat PDP’s Tariq Hameed Karra had defeated former chief minister and NC president, Farooq Abdullah, in 2014, primarily due to the general anger among the people against the NC-Congress coalition government due to use of force in handling the 2010 protests. Both the Srinagar and Anantang parliamentary constituencies have however traditionally been registering a low voting percentage.
In what summed up the mood in the polls, a youth Afaq Ahmad, of Charar-i-Sharief, said he boycotted elections to express his anger against the atrocities which were committed on people. “ Over hundred people were killed while thousands injured in the clashes last year, but government learnt no lessons from the last year’s agitation,” he said.
Unprecedented security arrangements were made for the elections which were held today. Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Shant Manu, said that nearly 200 companies of the central paramilitary forces were deployed during the elections. “ We had deployed some 150 companies at the polling stations all of which were declared as sensitive,” he said. Given the scale of violence, an official said, conducting the elections for the Anantang parliamentary seat which will be held on 12 April will be a challenge. On the seat Tasaduq Mufti, brother of Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, is pitted against Congress president, GA Mir.
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