Voter Apathy May Also Impact Turnout In Rest Of Jammu And Kashmir Seats

25 April 2014
The New Indian Express
Fayaz Wani

Srinagar: In the wake of the dismal voter turnout in the Anantnag-Pulwama Parliamentary seatin Jammu& Kashmir,there are concerns that voter apathy may impact the turnout in the Srinagar-Budgam and Baramulla-Kupwara Lok Sabha seats. And the apprehensions in this regard mounted further after the Anantnag-Pulwama Parliamentary seat, which went to the polls on Thursday, witnessed a mere 28 per cent of the electorate exercising their franchise. This was also confirmed by J&K Chief Electoral Officer(CEO)Umang Narula. Curiously, the state's mainstream and the separatist camps find themselves on the same page regarding their flagging interest in the poll exercise. According to senior National Conference(NC) leader, Mustafa Kamal, who is also a close relative of J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah,'The recent killing of Panchayat members and political workers were responsible for the low voter turnout in South Kashmir. The Panchayat members were killed to enforce poll boycott called by the separatists'. Terming low turnout as sad news for democracy, Kamal said, 'Low turnout may be witnessed in Srinagar-Budgam and Baramulla-Kupwara seats, which will be going to the polls on April 30 and May 7 respectively.' The Opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP), though, said the low turnout indicated the public's complete lack of trust in the state's NC-Congress Government. '(It is) a vote of no-confidence against the system in J&K,' PDP spokesman Nayeem Akhter, said. He said there was a growing sense of alienation among Kashmiris and the NC's alleged anti-people policies had worsened matters further. Akther also accused the NC of enforcing a poll boycott by resorting to stone throwing. 'They resorted to stone pelting in our areas so that people don't come to vote,' he said. Ayaz Akbar, spokesman of the Hurriyat Conference hardline faction led by Syed Ali Geelani, said the youth ought to be given credit for the poll boycott. 'The youth have grown up in turmoil in Kashmir and are politically very mature,' he said. Trashing the view that the killing of the political workers had led to the boycott he said, 'The killings took place in Tral in Pulwama district but the poll boycott took place in Shopian, Kulgam and Anantnag districts.' 'Had the state government allowed the separatist leaders to campaign against the polls, the turnout would have been even lower,' Akbar said, adding low polling will also be witnessed in the Srinagar and Baramulla seats. Fellow separatist leader Shabir Ahmad Shah said the people had stayed away from the polls because they were against the status quo. 'The people want resolution of the Kashmir issue in a peaceful and amicable manner'.