"Srinagar Witnesses Three-Decade High in Voter Turnout: 36% Participation Surpasses 1998 Record" #SrinagarVoterTurnout #RecordHigh #1998Comparison

Srinagar Witnesses Three-Decade High in Voter Turnout: 36% Participation Surpasses 1998 Record

Since 1998, the poll percentage in Srinagar Lok Sabha seat has hovered between 11-30% range, with the 2019 Lok Sabha elections witnessing a poor 14.4% turnout

After decades of dismal to low voter turnout, Srinagar parliamentary constituency on Monday recorded the highest 36% (provisional numbers) polling since 1996. In the first major election after abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two UTs, voters exercised their right to franchise in peaceful polling across 18 segments of the Lok Sabha seat.

Chief electoral officer Pandurang K Pole said the 36% votes polled till 5 pm was second highest after 1989, the year that militancy erupted in Kashmir. Since 1998, the poll percentage in Srinagar Lok Sabha seat has hovered between 11-30% range, with the 2019 Lok Sabha elections witnessing a poor 14.4% turnout.

Peaceful polling

Unlike in the past, security personnel breathed easy as no untoward incident was recorded from any of 2,135 polling stations spread across five districts. In another departure from past trends, Political parties especially the Peoples Democratic Party, the National Conference and the Apni Party also ran a high-decibel 24×7 campaign.

Voters sealed the fate of 23 candidates vying for the seat, where the main contest is between PDP’s Waheed Para, NC’s Ruhullah Mehdi and the Apni Party’s Ashraf Mir.

At Khanyar in the Old City, in an old government building, 228 of the 1,027 registered voters cast their ballot within the first three hours. “I have voted after three decades for peace and prosperity. We want our own people to govern us as we are facing a lot of problems,” Ghulam Rasool Mattu, 72, said, “I am hopeful our votes today will change our fate and bring more peace in the region.”

A group of friends, all in their forties, cast their votes for the first time since militancy? A couple of them had lost their family members and friends to the violence during 1990s. “People had no option to get rid of the suffocating atmosphere in the Valley for the past 5 years. We are opting for the lesser evil to choose our local representatives. The vote is not for ‘bijli, sadak and pani’ but against constitutional changes and the repression here,” Nazir Ahmad, a businessman, said.

At a polling booth in Islamia high School in the Mirwaiz’s bastion of Gojwara polling station, 119 people had voted out of 1,127 in six hours. Suhail Ahmad, 28, who is facing four FIRs in connection with stone-pelting incidents, voted in Motherland School, Nawhatta. “I was called to the police station yesterday. I voted for change today and for freedom to talk and express. Life was relaxed when our local representative governed us,” he said.

Transcending boundaries

The Ganderbal district, comprising two assembly segments, recorded almost 50% turnout. At the government school booth in Barsoo Lar, 299 voters of the 777 votes had been cast by 3 pm. “This time, a large number of voters voted without any fear. It’s good that people are voting as the boycott was never a good decision,” Ghulam Mohammad, a resident, said, adding that all members of his family had come out to vote.

At Naira village in Pulwama, home turf of PDP candidate Waheed-ur-Rehman Para, 173 votes of the 1,070 votes were polled in the first three hours. In the central district of Budgam, residents also stepped out in good numbers to exercise their right to franchise.

An MBA graduate who did not wish to be named was waiting in the queue at government boys high school in Budgam said people are turning out in good numbers as elections are happening after 10 years, adding, “There is anger, we want a representative who is elected not selected like the lieutenant governor. The governance machinery has become out of reach for the poor people.”

A young first time voter, Zainal Abidin, who has just turned 19, said his vote was for “democracy”. NC and PDP, meanwhile, alleged that their workers and agents at some places were harassed by police personnel. They also alleged that voting machines were taking unusually long time, leading to long queues at the stations. However, chief electoral officer in a statement said the speed of EVMs was the same everywhere and polling staff was working diligently.

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