Record voter turnout in Kashmir since 1987

Fayaz Bukhari

Voters stand in a long queue as they wait to cast their vote at a polling station in Ganderbal on Tuesday. -Excelsior/Amin War
Voters stand in a long queue as they wait to cast their vote at a polling station in Ganderbal on Tuesday. -Excelsior/Amin War

GANDERBAL, Nov 25: Defying the separatist poll boycott call and braving the winter chill, voters turned out in large numbers at polling stations in five Assembly constituencies of Kashmir valley recording highest percentage of voter turnout for the first time since outbreak of armed militancy in 1989.
According to Election Commission of India figures, five constituencies of Kashmir valley that voted in first phase of elections today, Gurez recorded 77 percent, Bandipora 70 percent, Sonawari 80 percent, Ganderbal 75.6 percent and Kangan 76 percent voter turnout. The voter turnout in these constituencies was 74 percent, 57.16 percent, 59.95 percent, 51. 80 percent and 59.54 percent respectively in 2008 Assembly elections.
Ganderbal recorded highest increase in voter turnout of 25 percent as compared to 2008 Assembly elections, Sonawari 20 percent, Kangan 16 percent, Bandipora 13 percent and Gurez 3 percent increase.
Large number voters were queuing outside polling Station since early morning in subzero morning temperatures in five constituencies of Kashmir valley. Serpentine queues of voters were seen at most of the polling stations and people were jostling for their turn to vote. At some place security forces had tough time for maintaining the queues.
In Khurhama Ganderbal not a single vote was polled in the polling station of the village that has 1033 registered voters in Parliament elections this year. However, today 386 voters exercised their franchise.
Similarly, at Barsu-97 polling station in Ganderbal where 1066 voters are registered, 320 voters polled their votes today while in Parliament election this year only one voter exercised his franchise.
In Malpora-I polling station, around 821 votes were polled till 4 p.m. and there were over 100 voters still in the queue waiting for their turn to cast their vote. In Parliament elections this year only 11 votes were polled in the polling station.
The enthusiasm of voters was such at some places that there were long queues outside polling station at 4 p.m. at various polling stations in Ganderbal district when the polling time ended. However, District Election Officer Ganderbal, Sarmand Hafeez told Excelsior that they allowed the voters who were in queues to vote by extending the time.
Imtiaz Ahmad Sheikh of Lar Ganderbal who was waiting in a long queue for two hours to cast his vote for the first time in life told Excelsior: “I am eager to vote, as it makes difference. I am voting for change. We have poor road network, lack drinking water facilities and there is growing unemployment. I hope my vote makes a difference”, he said.
Another voter at Kangan-C Polling Station said that he is voting for change. “We want better governance. If we don’t vote, the candidate who is voted to power feels that he can be elected even if the people don’t vote. We want to prove him wrong this time”, he said.
Separatist groups like all the factions of Hurriyat Conference and Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) had called for poll boycott and a general strike as well. However, people defied the call and voted in large numbers.
The Government had made elaborate security arrangements for the smooth conduct of polls. Police and Central forces were deployed in large numbers to give sense of security to voters. Army was also deployed in sanitizing the areas and preventing militants from carrying out attacks to disrupt the polls.
Militants tried to disrupt polls at two places by hurling grenades at two polling stations in Bandipora and Sonawari constituencies. The attacks failed to have any impact on the poll process as no one was hurt in the twin attacks.
A minor clash broke out between supporters of ruling National Conference and opposition PDP at a polling station in Baroosa area of Ganderbal constituency. One person sustained minor injuries but security personnel restored order and polling went on smoothly thereafter. Earlier, police had to fire tearsmoke shells to chase away a group of women who pelted stones at Barsoo Polling Station to disrupt polling.


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