In first major polls after 370 abrogation, Srinagar records highest voter turnout in last 28 yrs

Pulwama/Srinagar, May 13 (UNI) In the first major polls after the abrogation of Article 370, the Srinagar parliamentary constituency on Monday recorded the second highest turnout in nearly the last three decades.

According to the authorities atleast 36 percent of the 17.4 lakh voters in Srinagar exercised their right to franchise on Monday till 5 pm.

Chief Electoral Officer J&K, Pandurang K Pole said the polling was held peacefully.

“Today we recorded second highest ever poll percentage in Srinagar after 1989,” Pole said during a press conference.

The highest voter turnout in Srinagar seat in last three decades was in 1996 general elections when the seat saw 40.9 % voter turnout. In 1998, the turnout was 30 % while it was 11.9 % in 1999. In 2004, 2009, 2014 and 2019 the turnout in Srinagar was 18.6, 25.6, 25.9 and 14.3 per cent respectively.

“Most likely after the end of poll either we can touch 1996 poll percentage or we cross it. The today poll percentage can even break this record,” he said.

Srinagar was first among the three parliamentary seats of Kashmir which went to polls on Monday in the fourth phase of elections across the country.

Following the delimitation exercise carried out across J&K after abrogation of Article 370, Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency was redrawn and two Assembly segments of Budgam district, which formed it’s part, were clubbed with Baramulla constituency of north Kashmir and four Assembly segments of Pulwama and one from Shopian districts was added to the constituency.

This was the first major poll in Kashmir since J&K’s special status was abrogated by the BJP government on August 5, 2019 and the erstwhile state was also downgraded into two union territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.

The voting in the entire Srinagar parliamentary constituency spread over five districts — Srinagar, Budgam, Ganderbal in central Kashmir and Pulwama and Shopian in south Kashmir was conducted peacefully and unlike the past there was no fear among the voters.

According to officials, Assembly segment wise Central Shalteng recorded 24.76 percent, Chadoora – 46.60, Charar-e-Shareef – 53.23. Channapora – 22.97, Eidgah – 25.68, Ganderbal – 46.81, Habba Kadal – 13.25, Hazratbal – 26.28 , Kangan (ST) -55.55, Khan Sahib – 48.50, Khanyar – 23.06, Lal Chowk – 26.01, Pampore – 38.10, Pulwama – 39.25, Rajpora – 42.80, Shopian – 45.04 , Tral – 37.52 and Zadibal – 27.52 percent of votes.

The polling began at 7am and remained peaceful, except allegations from political parties over “ official interference” .

“ The voting was held peacefully even in the areas which were volatile in the past,” said an official.

In Pulwama, once a hotbed of militancy, people including women folk were seen headed towards polling stations early in the morning.

At Samboora village in Pulwama the voting picked up slowly. At the four polling stations housed in local Higher Secondary School, out of total votes of over 3400, 71 were polled in the first hour.

Pulwama, the native district of Peoples Democratic Party candidate Waheed Parra, was abuzz during the day and several people said that voting was a means to end the “sense of fear and suppression”.

Voters had different reasons to exercise their right to franchise.

“I am voting for the first time as I fear for myself and the future of my children.After Article 370 abrogation everything has changed for common people here. Our children don’t have jobs and there is a sense of fear among all of us. So I voted for a candidate who made a promise for protection over these issues,” said Mohammad Ashraf, a voter outside the Pinglana village in Pulwama.

PDP’s Parra accused authorities of slowing down the polling process in Pulwama.

“Long queues in Pulwama reveal a disturbing truth: deliberate slowing down of the polling process in areas,” Parra said.

In neighbouring Keegam village in Shopian district, an elderly voter said he voted for ensuring basic facilities like electricity.

“I voted for getting basic facilities,” said Ghulam Qadir an elderly voter.

In Srinagar downtown areas, the separatist bastion and home to more than half a million people witnessed a modest voter turnout. The rural pockets witnessed brisk voting.

In the once volatile Maisuma area of Srinagar, at the three polling stations 214 votes were polled out of 1443 by noon.

Out of 1700 votes at the three polling stations at Islamia School Rajouri Kadal in old city, the stronghold of Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, 139 votes had been polled by around 1 pm.

The main contest in the Srinagar Parliament seat is between National Conference’s influential Shia leader Ruhullah Mehdi, PDP’s youth leader Waheed Para, who is out on bail in a terror related case and Apni Parties Mohammad Ashraf Mir.

The BJP is not contesting from the three seats of Kashmir and their absence has drawn criticism.

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