In the highest turnout since 1996, Srinagar recorded nearly 38 percent voting. Election News


Voters in search of “hope (hope)” and lined up for political representation at polling booths in Srinagar on Monday, which saw a turnout of 37.98% (estimated at 11.45 pm), the highest since 1996. is the most

National Conference candidate Agha Ruhollah Mehdi is facing People's Democratic Party's Waheedur Rehman Para and Jammu and Kashmir own party's Ashraf Mir, where a total of 24 candidates are in the fray.

“This is not a vote in protest against our past, it is a vote of hope, of hope for a better future,” said Ghulam Qadir Wani, 62, who cast his vote in Dara.

He said that for the past 10 years, people have been “watchers” of the changing political landscape of Jammu and Kashmir, and casting their votes has given them back a “sense of control”. He said that if my family and I had not voted today, we would have felt defeated by our situation.

Srinagar constituency boundaries were redrawn after the delimitation exercise in 2022. In 2019, Srinagar saw a turnout of 14.43%. The figures for 2014, 2009, 2004 and 1999 are 25.86%, 25.55%, 18.57% and 11.93% respectively. In 1996, 40.94 percent of votes were cast in Srinagar.

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“We have been feeling powerless since (the abrogation of Article 370) in August 2019. I have come here to elect my representative because it is something that cannot be taken away from me,” said 25-year-old Muneeb Mushtaq. Said standing up. In a queue outside a polling booth in Naira.

People queue up to vote in Srinagar.  (Express Photo Shoaib Masoudi) People queue up to vote in Srinagar. (Express Photo Shoaib Masoudi)

He said he was closely watching the speeches of national party leaders, and felt that “saving the constitution” was an important responsibility.

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In Pulwama's Lasipora, 70-year-old Abdul Rasheed Mir said sending three MPs from Kashmir may not make a big difference in the 543-seat parliament, but strengthening regional parties to represent Jammu and Kashmir is still important. “It is our responsibility to strengthen the protections that our regional parties can afford us, the way they can protect the youth who are raised all the time,” he said.

Ghulam Nabi Bhat, a resident of Ganderbal, cast his vote for the first time at the age of 60. In the last three decades, Bhat's village Barsu saw turnout in single digits. Not this time though.

In 1996, the army forced us to vote. I went to the polling station, got ink on my finger, folded the ballot paper and put it in my pocket and left for home. But today, I have come here of my own free will,'' said Bhatt.

Srinagar Parliamentary Constituency is spread over five districts and 18 assembly constituencies. While long queues were seen in Pulwama, Shopian, Budgam and Ganderbal districts, long queues of voters were also seen at polling booths in Srinagar city, which has traditionally witnessed polling boycotts.

Voters also cited a “political vacuum” and the absence of political structures where they could “register their grievances” as reasons for the high turnout.

“There is no one to listen to our grievances. We can at least go to our elected representative and seek his help,” said Faizan Ahmed, 23, who was waiting outside a polling station in Pulwama's Naira village. are

With the shadow of the boycott disappearing, many flashed their inked fingers to relatives and friends – a far cry from the days when people tried to rub off indelible ink.

After casting her vote, Zeba Begum (70) persuaded other women in her village to follow suit. She said that I have voted in the past but this is the first time I am seeing such a rush.

Ali Muhammad, a voter, said that we boycotted the elections for 30 years but nothing was achieved. Our electricity bills have gone up, there is no employment for the youth. That is why we have come out this time.

Election Commission officials said they have made concerted efforts to facilitate election campaigning and provide a safe environment for political activities. Officials said that when Chief Election Commissioner Rajeev Kumar visited Kashmir in March to review preparations, all district magistrates were directed to provide adequate security to candidates and give approval for speedy holding of ceremonies.

Officials said confidence-building measures for candidates and voter outreach programs also led to an increase in turnout this time.

After polling ended, J&K Chief Electoral Office, Pandurang Pol said that no untoward incident was reported. On the allegations of some parties detaining their workers, he said, “Jammu and Kashmir is not completely free from its troubled past. Precautions are needed to hold peaceful and free and fair elections here. Measures have to be taken. If someone has a criminal background, history of working as an OGW (overground worker), then such people are usually detained If someone does not have such a history, they are not detained.

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Behind the jump in turnout

While officials attributed confidence-building measures and voter outreach programs for candidates, voters cited a “political vacuum” and the absence of political structures where they could “register their grievances” as reasons for the turnout. are”.

He said that there was no polling booth where polling did not take place. The polling panel said the turnout was “an expression of confidence and enthusiasm in the electoral process”. According to the data, Kangan Assembly Constituency in Ganderbal district recorded the highest voter turnout at 58 percent and Habbakdal in Srinagar the lowest at 14 percent.

“More than 8,000 polling staff were on duty to cater to over 17.47 lakh strong voters,” the commission said. Voting took place at 2,135 polling stations in the Srinagar parliamentary constituency, with live webcasting at each location.

PDP candidate Waheed Para said the turnout was encouraging and attributed it to first-time voters. “This is an unprecedented turnout and reflects our assertion that the youth are interested in restoring democracy in Jammu and Kashmir and are ready to claim their place,” he said.

NC candidate Ruhollah Mehdi thanked the people of Srinagar for casting their votes and wrote that he was “humbled” by the numbers.

J&K LG Manoj Sinha said the turnout was “heartwarming” and hoped that the enthusiasm of the voters would show in the next two phases as well.

– With inputs by Damini Nath

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