Baramulla records 55 pc voter turnout till 5 PM

By Majid Jahangir
Baramulla/ Sopore/ Kupwara, May 20 (UNI) Jammu and Kashmir’s Baramulla Lok Sabha constituency returned to pre-militancy poll fervour as the constituency on Monday saw a voter turnout of 55 percent till 5 pm, the highest since 1989.

The constituency is witnessing a high-stakes battle between National Conference Vice President Omar Abdullah, former separatist turned mainstream leader, and People’s Conference Chairman Sajad Lone and jailed leader Abdul Rashid Sheikh popularly known as Engineer Rashid.

The voting in 18 segments of Baramulla constituency – comprising the border districts of Baramulla, Bandipora and Kupwara and two segments of central Kashmir’s Budgam district started at 7 am with long queues of enthusiastic voters waiting to cast their votes.

The voter turnout in Baramulla Lok Sabha poll in 1996 when the first election was held following the beginning of the insurgency- was 46.7 percent. It was 38.9% in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, 39.1% in 2014, 41.8% in 2009, 35.5% in 2004, 27.8% in 1999, and 41.94% in 1998.

In the pre-militancy era in 1984, Baramulla parliamentary constituency had recorded 61.1 percent voting.

There was a significant increase in the turnout even in areas like Baramulla and Sopore towns, the erstwhile separatist bastions, where a good number of voters turned up today.

“I voted to ensure our identity is protected (referring to abrogation of Article 370 in 2019),” said a voter, Tariq Ahmed, outside a polling station in Sopore town. “ In the past I never voted. And I believe the boycott disempowered us and I am voting to secure land and jobs.”

At the five polling stations housed inside Sopore Government Degree College, out of 4222 votes, 1328 were polled by 4.30 pm.

In the neighboring Baramulla town, known for poll boycotts in the past, Javaid Ahmed said he voted out of his own will.

“In the last three decades, I have never voted for any party, but today I came out to vote on my own will,” Ahmed , 48, said.

In Handwara, the native town of PC candidate Sajad Lone, the mood was upbeat. This town has traditionally in the past witnessed an impressive voter turnout.

“We voted in 2002 polls and we were abused for this. But now after nearly two decades everyone is voting across Kashmir,” said a woman voter Khalida, at a polling station in Handwara.

In neighbouring Langate- the native town of Engineer Rashid, people had lined up to vote with the hope to see Rashid as a free man.

In Kupwara’s Trehgam area- the birthplace of now banned Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front founder Mohammad Maqbool Bhat, a traditional boycott village, people came out to vote in good numbers.

Mohammad Ashraf Mir, a retired principal, said a large number of people came out to vote in Trehgam.

“People here have now understood the power of vote,” he said.

Of the four polling stations at a Trehgam school, out of 3735 votes, 1023 were polled by around noon.

Officials said there was no untoward incident reported from any of the 2,103 polling stations.

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