Politics

Lok Sabha Polls: Srinagar Records 38 Pc Voter Turnout, Highest Since 1996

SRINAGAR: A voter turnout of 38 per cent was recorded in the redrawn Srinagar Lok Sabha seat without any untoward incident on Monday, the highest since 1996 when the constituency in Jammu and Kashmir witnessed nearly 41 per cent polling.

The Srinagar constituency, which saw the first general election after the abrogation of Article 370 in J&K, recorded 38 per cent voting till 11 pm, according to the Election Commission of India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi applauded voters in Srinagar for an encouraging turnout.

“The abrogation of Article 370 has enabled the potential and aspirations of the people to find full expression. Happening at the grassroots level, it is great for the people of J&K, in particular the youth,” he said in a post on X.

Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha and the political parties congratulated the people of Srinagar constituency on the “historic” voter turnout.

Kashmiri Pandits from the constituency flocked to special polling stations in Jammu and voted for the rehabilitation of their community on “social, economic, and political” fronts.

Voting took place in the districts of Srinagar, Ganderbal, and Pulwama, and partly in Budgam and Shopian districts at around 2,135 polling stations across the Srinagar parliamentary constituency with live webcasting at all the polling stations, the EC said in a statement.

Polling started at 7 am with long queues of enthusiastic voters waiting to cast their votes, it said.

Voters of Srinagar, Budgam, Ganderbal, Pulwama, and Shopian showed up in record numbers to cast their votes in a show of faith and enthusiasm in the election process, it added.

According to the EC, the highest polling in this constituency in the last 34 years has been in 1996 when nearly 41 per cent voters used their franchise.

In 2019, 14.43 per cent votes polled whereas the figure in previous parliamentary elections stood at 25.86 per cent (2014), 25.55 (2009), 18.57 (2004), 11.93 (1999) and 30.06 per cent (1998), the statement said.

National Conference candidate Aga Ruhullah, PDP’s Waheed Para, JK Apni Party’s Ashraf Mir and DPAP’s Amir Bhat are among 24 candidates fighting from the Srinagar seat. In the 2019 general elections, only 12 candidates were in the fray from the seat.

The Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency was redrawn after the delimitation and parts of Budgam in central Kashmir were taken away from it, while Pulwama district and parts of Shopian district were added.

In a post on X, LG Sinha said, “Today, people came out in large numbers to cast their votes in Srinagar Parliamentary Constituency and reaffirmed their faith in democracy and the constitution. I commend the hard work by all the stakeholders for free, fair, peaceful and smooth conduct of the polling.”

“I truly appreciate the enthusiasm of electors and hopeful to see historic turnout in the next two phases,” he added.

Kashmiri Pandits, who were forced to flee from the valley in the early 90s under fear of militancy, lined up in long queues amid tight security to exercise their franchise.

“I have voted for our permanent return to Kashmir valley in an atmosphere of peace and security. We have been waiting for the past 34 years to live in the valley. We hope this dream of ours will materialise now,” Om Prakash, who was carried on a wheelchair from his quarters in the Jagti migrant camp in Jammu, said.

Meanwhile, three generations of the Abdullah family cast their vote in the Srinagar constituency.

National Conference president and former J&K chief minister Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar Abdullah and his two grandsons and first-time electors Zahir and Zamir cast their vote at a polling station at the Burn Hall School here.

“We have two first-time voters with us. It is for the first time that three generations of our family are voting together,” Omar Abdullah, also a former chief minister, said.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Electoral Officer P K Pole said all the 2,135 polling stations were connected to CCTV network and that no untoward incident has been noticed.

Pole thanked about 8,500 polling staff and 17,000 security force personnel for ensuring free and fair election in Srinagar seat having over 17.47 lakh-strong electorate.

“I also thank the candidates for enthusiastic participation in the campaign and for mobilising the voters,” he told reporters here.

Srinagar seat was redrawn in the 2022 delimitation exercise in Jammu and Kashmir. The constituency comprises 18 assembly segments which are spread over five districts of Srinagar, Ganderbal, Pulwama, Budgam and Shopian.

According to the official data, Habbakadal was the only assembly segment which registered a turnout of less than 20 per cent where only 14.01 per cent voters cast their votes.

In order to ensure inclusive voting, polling stations managed by women, specially abled persons and youths were set up. There were 21 green and eco-friendly polling stations, the EC said in a statement.

The Commission enabled Kashmiri migrant voters residing at various relief camps in Delhi, Jammu, and Udhampur to also have the option of voting in person at designated special polling stations or using postal ballot.

The good voter turnout signalled a paradigm shift from the past voting patterns in the Srinagar constituency.

“I am voting for the first time. We want our representation in the Centre who will become our voice. That is the reason I have come to vote,” Mohammad Asif, a resident of Lal Bazar, said.

Bashir Ahmad Bhat, an elderly man, said it was time to stand up for Kashmiri identity and save its resources for local people.

“We all know what happened in 2019… We have to make ourselves heard and Parliament is the best place to make the noise,” Bhat said after casting his vote at a polling station in Old Srinagar city.

Rafeeqa, a resident of Khanyar, said she has voted to contribute her bit in stopping “injustice” with people of Kashmir.

“We are losing jobs. Electricity is becoming dearer, food supplies through public distribution system have been reduced drastically. I have voted against all this,” she said. (PTI)

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