Why South Did Not Vote?

25 April 2014
Kashmir Observer


Srinagar: Fear of violence was not entirely responsible for the dismal voter turnout in South Kashmir, many observers here believe. Jama'at-e-Islami, J&K's largest religio-political party, is understood to have espoused the cause of boycott for more reasons than the Hurriyat factions would go with. The Jama'at, election watchers say, sought to correct its image by withdrawing from the vote-bank bargain with PDP. The ruling National Conference has been harping on the allegation that Muftis heavily banked on Jama'at support in order to dislodge NC from South. Although the symbolism attached to the killings at Pampore, Awantipora, Tral and Shopian is enough to conclude that the violence marred the prospect of polling, a quick comparison between 2002 assembly elections and Thursday's poll reinforces the Jama'at angle. Back in 2002, Pulwama constituency scored more than eighteen percent voting in a phase during which polling was conducted for all the sixteen assembly seats. In 2008 the turnout for Pulwama crossed 25 percent. The district as a whole barely crossed six percent in the fresh poll on April 30. Moreover, the PDP candidate despite being a debutant in Pulwama, saw a surprising feat of bagging 53 percent of over nine thousand votes polled in the district. This time the town witnessed near total boycott. The figures of 2002 and 2008 elections have an upsetting backdrop of violence too. The spate of violent incidents across Anantnag and Pulwama during those elections killed more than more than 15 persons paramilitary men . Militants during 2002 elections across South Kashmir targeted at least a dozen polling booths, leaving nearly 20 people including security personnel injured. 'The mainstream media cites violence as a deterrent but there are underbellies in politics,' an analyst said adding that the Jama'at was being weighed down by both mainstream and separatist rivals for playing 'RSS' to promote Kashmir's 'BJP'. Peoples Democratic Party was founded on 28 July 1998 by Mufti Muhammad Sayeed with tapering of a neo-Islamist party that would not confront India over Kashmir but would like to engage it for a 'resolution of internal and external dimensions of the problem'. He championed his party as an alternative to what he projected as dynasty rule of National Conference. But the NC and its loyalists insist the party was floated by New Delhi's intelligence agencies, which they believe wanted to checkmate the Kashmir's nationalist discourse. For over a decade now, the Jama'at, already much ridiculed for its departure from overtly supporting militancy, has been swallowing taunts from rivals about its alleged support to PDP. 'No Jamaat cadre is voting this time. It is blatant lie that we vote for the PDP. Even if (hardline Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali) Geelani or Jamaat chief votes now, they will no more be a Jamaati,' a report quoted Bashraat Ahmad, a Jamaat cadre, from Qoimoh.