Srinagar records 14.8% polling; barring few incidents, polls peaceful

Brisk polling witnessed at Gund Hasi Bhat polling station in Lawypora area on the outskirts of Srinagar on Thursday. —Excelsior/Shakeel
Brisk polling witnessed at Gund Hasi Bhat polling station in Lawypora area on the outskirts of Srinagar on Thursday. —Excelsior/Shakeel

Fayaz Bukhari
Srinagar, Apr 18: Voting in Srinagar constituency remained by and large peaceful with good turnout recorded in parts of the constituency while in majority of the areas there was boycott leading to 14.8 poll percentage.
The poll percentage dropped by 11 percent as compared to 2014 Parliament elections. It was 25.86 percent in 2014 polls. However, it was double the voting percentage of 2017 by-elections when a record low turnout of 7.2 percent was recorded and the polling was marred by violence leaving nine persons dead and scores injured.

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This time barring scores of stone pelting incidents in which over a dozen persons were injured, the polls remained by and large peaceful.
Security was put on maximum alert across Srinagar constituency with large number of police and para-military CRPF deployed in the sensitive areas. Security forces were also patrolling in the sensitive areas to prevent any disturbance to the poll process. The Northern and Southern entry and exit routes of Srinagar city were blocked for security reasons. The mobile internet service was also suspended to prevent violence.
People in long queues were waiting for their turn to cast their votes in Gund Hassi Bhat, Hamdania Colony Bemina, Durbal Bemina and other places of Srinagar district. In Durbal Polling Station, out of total 846 votes, 738 votes were polled.
“We are casting our vote only for the development of the region. We want to choose a member who can raise our issues in the Parliament. This vote is very important as the elected member can speak for us in the Parliament and initiate a new era of development here,” Ghulam Mohammad, a voter from Lawaypora told Excelsior.
Another voter at Hamdaniya colony Bemina, Ghulam Hassan, said that they are facing extreme hardships. “We are facing extreme hardships. I have voted for NC this time as last Government snatched everything from us. They failed to control the prices of essential commodities. There was huge disparity in the flood relief. We received nothing despite suffering damages. We constructed our houses by selling gold ornaments of our wives”, he said
But majority of the polling stations especially in old city were deserted and only few votes were polled there and in some polling stations not a single vote was cast. The polling staff was waiting endlessly for the voters who never turned up.
At Chadoora, Chrar-i-Shareef and several other areas of Budgam district, though the polling began on a slow note but it gradually picked pace in later hours. The district recorded highest percentage of 21.5 per cent.
The elections were marked by the enthusiasm for first time voters, who were excited to get their fingers inked. At number of places, the youngsters were very excited to have exercised their franchise.
Mohammed Yasin and Aaqib Ahmad, both 19-year-old were among the first time voters at Badipora in Chrar-i-Shareef. “I was waiting for this day for many months. I had always been watching people casting their vote and my wish was that one day I will also be able to push the button of the electronic voting machine,” he said.
Aaqib too expressed similar feelings and recounted how the two had registered in the electoral rolls together. “We came to the polling station early in the morning and were excited to cast our votes,” he said.
But in some areas of the district there was poll boycott and polling stations remained deserted. In Bune Dharmuma Polling Station of Budgam Assembly segment which has over 900 votes, not a single vote was polled.
The National Conference president and candidate from Srinagar constituency, Dr Farooq Abdullah and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah voted in Burn Hall School Polling Station in Sonwar area this morning.
Abdullah on the occasion said: “We have tried to convenience people and hope they will repose faith on us. The response of the people will be known today here and in South Kashmir some weeks later.”
When asked how different is this election, the NC president said: “People this time are more aware. The situation that existed in the country has scared the people here,” he said.
Omar Abdullah on the occasion after casting vote said that he hopes Centre and Election Commission (EC) will hold Assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir soon after the completion of the Lok Sabha polls.
“I only hope that having seen the environment in which we were able to conduct both the campaign for North Kashmir and also Central Kashmir and hopefully South Kashmir as well that the Government of India gets off its high horse and gives the people of Jammu and Kashmir the opportunity to choose an elected government sooner rather than later because they are now running out of excuses to delay Assembly elections,” the former Chief Minister told reporters.
Omar said Assembly elections in the State were delayed because of Parliament. “Now the Parliament elections are due to conclude. We can only hope that the Centre together with the EC gives the people of Jammu and Kashmir an elected Government which is their right,” the former CM said.
The NC leader termed the ongoing LS polls significantly different from the by-elections of 2017 that NC president Dr Farooq Abdullah won. “In that election we barely managed one or two public meetings outdoors. All our election activity was confined to closed rooms and walled off areas. In this election thankfully we found the electorate for more receptive,” he said.
“I don’t know what that will mean for turnouts but at least in terms of the atmosphere for campaigning and the receptiveness of the people to the message that we were taking out to them it is a far more receptive electorate today than it was in 2017,” he added.
Srinagar constituency is spread over 15 Assembly segments comprising three districts of Central Kashmir-Ganderbal, Srinagar and Budgam with 1,295,304 registered voters including 1,294,560 general voters and 744 service voters. Among the general voters, 6,67,252 were male and 627,282 female electorates.
The authorities had set up 1716 polling stations across the Parliamentary constituency to facilitate the polling.
Meanwhile, a police spokesman said here that as the polling for Srinagar Parliamentary constituency was going on, several incidents of stone pelting on security forces and polling staffs were reported.
“During the election process, security forces came under severe stone pelting from miscreants who had congregated at various places. However security forces while dealing with such hostile stone pelting mobs, exercised utmost restraint”, the spokesman said.
He said that several police and security force personnel including two DySPs and several other cops got injured due to stone pelting today.
The spokesman said that in another incident of stone pelting at Hyderpora, one civilian driver identified as Mohammad Yaseen Dar, 22, sustained critical injuries in his head. “He is undergoing treatment at a hospital and is stated to be critical”, he said.
He said that security forces exercised utmost restraint while dealing with hostile stone pelting mobs and it was due this that the polling process concluded peacefully today.
“The administration therefore appealed to the people to cooperate with the officials in discharging the lawful duty of conducting polls in a peaceful manner and elements involved in such unlawful activities shall be strictly dealt under law”, the spokesman said.