Valley Wins, Beats Terror By Number
24 April 2006
The Hindustan Times
Jammu: If asked to paint Monday's bypoll to four constituencies in the Valley - the only colours would be of 'courage'. Braving militants' fire and a poll boycott call, the Valley registered a whopping 61 per cent turnout. The polls, this time, were a referendum against the war on terror in the state. At stake are the fortunes of chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad - contesting from his native Bhaderwah - and the political fortunes of his ally PDP. Azad's constituency, Bhaderwah, topped the turnout list with 76 per cent followed by 66.28 per cent in Rafiabad, 56.25 per cent in Pattan and 40.32 per cent in Sangrama. Briefing the media in Jammu on Sunday night, chief electoral officer B.R. Sharma said polling percentage was an 'all- time high'. As if making a statement against terror, voters were undaunted by militants' attempts to subvert the poll process at Pattan and Sangrama. Local residents held PDP supporters responsible for the attacks and staged 'massive demonstrations'. The mood was in sharp contrast to the lacklustre elections of the past decade - dubbed the era of blood in the state. Jammu and Kashmir had witnessed two Assembly elections and three bypolls since 1996. Protesters clashed with the police at Palhalan, injuring four. The Shia-Sunni tension was palpable in Pattan, where people voted on sectarian lines. While the Shia-dominated areas threw in their lot behind Maullvi Iftikhar Hussan Ansari (a veteran Shia leader) of PDP, Sunni voters chose to side with NC candidate Musatafa Kamal, a former minister and younger brother of Farooq Abdullah. Skirmishes between rival groups were also reported from Singhpora, Pattan and the adjoining villages. However, voters in Bhaderwah were upbeat. For them, it was almost like playing the kingmaker. Azad is pitted in a straight fight against BJP's Dhantar Singh. In Sangrama, Independent candidate Shoiab Lone's native village Nowpora set another milestone. It registered more than 80 per cent turnout, indicating the sympathy wave for assassinated minister Ghulam Nabi Lone's son. Long live democracy Referendum on terror The whopping turnout was a statement of sorts against militancy. People braved terrorists' fire to exercise their franchise Perked up The mood was upbeat. In the chief minister's constituency, voters behaved as if they were electing a king. Back on rails The Valley was surprised. For a decade, there had been a lull. But Monday's bypolls changed all that.