Srinagar Sees Record Voter Turnout, Centre Credits Officers’ Hard Work

Once seen as a hub of separatists, Srinagar has demonstrated faith in democracy. The Valley saw over 38% voter turnout on Monday, the highest it recorded in the last six Lok Sabha elections.

“There was no boycott call by the Hurriyat and the ground situation has improved immensely. So people came out to vote without any fear,” said a senior official at the Home Ministry.

Strict action taken by security agencies on the operations of Jamaat also helped quell fear among the people and political parties, said the official. “The mobilisation of workers by political parties also helped. Their supporters openly campaigned and managed to get their supporters to vote,” he said.

In 2019, the Srinagar parliamentary constituency had recorded a voter turnout of 14.43%.

Srinagar was once considered the hub of separatism with the Hurriyat head offices located in the city and Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) workers having a significant reach.

“Now, the backbone of separatists has been broken and the ecosystem supporting the JKLF has also been dismantled,” said an official operating on the ground. Miwaiz Umar Farooq, the moderate face of the Hurriyat, also supported the elections, he added.

The highest-ever voter turnout since terrorism erupted in Kashmir was recorded in 1996 (40.94 %), recall old-timers.

“The figures came down after this. In fact, 1999 witnessed the lowest polling. Only 11.93% voted,” said an official who has served in Jammu and Kashmir during the turbulent 1990s.

The situation improved in 2004, 2009, and 2014, and the polling percentage went up, according to him. “But in 2019, it dipped to 14.43%,” he added.

Interestingly, the geographical boundary of the Srinagar Parliamentary Constituency was smaller in 1996 and comprised only Srinagar, Budgam, and Ganderbal districts. After delimitation, the whole of Pulwama district and an assembly segment of Shopian district became part of the Srinagar constituency.

Demonstrating the spirit of democracy, the voting percentage in most of these wards turned out to be significant. Kangan recorded 58.8% turnout, Charar-e-sharib 56%, Khansahib 50.35%, Ganderbal 49.48%, Shopian 47.88%, and Pulwama 43.39%.

“These figures clearly show that people have once again shown faith in the election process,” said a senior official.

In fact, for the first time, even the migrant community came out to vote in large numbers.

Official data suggests there are 17,140 Kashmiri migrant electors in Srinagar who had opted for voting at the 26 special polling stations at Jammu, Udhampur, and Delhi. As many as 6,700 migrant voters exercised their voting rights, leading to a turnout of 39.09 % at these polling stations. Of them, 213 voted in Delhi, 160 at Udhampur, and 6,327 in Jammu.

The UT administration claims that this significant change in the voting pattern in Srinagar city is a result of hard work done by officers on the ground for the last 4-5 years.

An official also credited this to the mobilisation by 24 candidates and political parties, election awareness done by deputy commissioners and the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO)’s office through SVEEP activities, and the voters’ strong belief that the ballot can lead to sustainable development.

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