WHAT DOES THE LOW VOTER TURNOUT IN KASHMIR MEAN FOR INDIA

02 June 2019

If you turn a place into a graveyard, can you expect its people to vote enthusiastically? Many in Kashmir are echoing these thoughts and showing their disillusionment with the ruling government by not turning up to vote. The fifth phase of Lok Sabha elections concluded on May 6 and the voter turnout for Jammu & Kashmir’s 6 Lok Sabha seats has stumped many political leaders in the valley and the centre.

Jammu & Kashmir has recorded an overall voter turnout of a mere 43.5% in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections, its lowest since the 2004 polls.

As many as 299 polling booths in Pulwama and Shopian district saw no voting. It’s ironic that votes in elections across the country are being asked for in Pulwama’s name and yet 266 booths in the district saw zero voting. Security forces cracked down on militants after 40 CRPF jawans were killed in the February 14 terror attack in Pulwama, which was claimed by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed. They belong to the Anantnag constituency where polls were held in an unprecedented three phases. Nobody came to vote in 65 polling booths in this constituency according to a report. The turnout was 8.76 per cent, a significant fall from the 28.54 per cent recorded during the 2014 Lok Sabha election. According to the media reports voter turnout in as many as 90 polling stations in Srinagar Parliamentary constituency was zero. In Baramulla Lok Sabha constituency no votes were polled at 17 polling stations.

While militancy and security played a part, residents of the Valley’s three parliamentary constituencies of Anantnag, Baramulla and Srinagar showed little enthusiasm for the electoral process. These three seats cumulatively registered a voter turnout of just 19%. The individual turnout was the worst in Anantnag, where 8.79% of voters came out to exercise their franchise, followed by Srinagar at 14%. At 34%, Baramulla saw a relatively better turnout. The Valley, embroiled in violence for over three decades, has historically seen low voter turnouts. Over the last five general elections from 1998 to 2014, the turnout in Anantnag has remained below 30%. In 1999 and 2004, it was below 15%. Unlike the Kashmir Valley, voters in the Jammu region participated in the polls enthusiastically. Turnout in Udhampur in Jammu was 70.19%, higher than even the national turnout so far.

In spite of all the main stream parties in J&K campaigning, the central government, state government and Election Commission vigorously campaigning, in spite of the armed forces present in all areas forcing the people to vote what is the end result? Voting percentage in the Kashmir Valley is: Sri nagar 7%, Kulgam town 1.3%, Shopian district 2.6 %, Pulwama district 1.9%. This is kashmiri people’s reply to the militaristic/state terror policy of Modi government. Will BJP and its allies on the one side, and the Congress and other opposition parties on the other pause for a minute and ponder? n

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Kabeer Katlat

The Communist movement in India has a history of almost a century after the salvos of October Revolution in Russia brought Marxism-Leninism to the people of India who were engaged in the national liberation struggle against the British colonialists. It is a complex and chequered history.