Srinagar: The re-poll held on Thursday at 38 polling stations located in Jammu and Kashmir’s central district of Budgam, the worst-hit by violence during by-poll to prestigious Srinagar Lok Sabha seat on Sunday, was by and large peaceful. But the voter turnout is embarrassing lowest 2.02 percent.
“The re-poll concluded in a peaceful atmosphere. Out of 35,169 voters, a total of 709 voters exercised their right of franchise which amounts to a poll percentage of 2.02,” said J&K’s Chief Electoral Officer Mr. Shantmanu.
The by-poll to Srinagar Lok Sabha seat held on Sunday was marred by widespread violence leaving eight people dead and dozens wounded which augmented anger among the people in Kashmir Valley. Also a meager 7.14 percent of over 1.2 million voters turned up to use their democratic right which was the lowest in five decades. This raised questions about the sanctity of this election.
The Election Commission (EC) ordered re-poll at 38 polling stations in five Assembly segments of Budgam even though the by-poll to Anantnag Lok Sabha seat scheduled for April 12 was deferred by it till May 25 in view of widespread violence witnessed in Srinagar.
Thousands of security personnel were deployed across Budgam’s five segments ahead of the re-poll. Each area where the re-poll was being held gave the look of a fortress whereas strict security restrictions were imposed elsewhere in the district after invoking Section 144 CrPc. The Internet services available at fixed broadband lines were again suspended for more than six hours on Thursday whereas mobile internet services remain suspended since April 8 night. Director General of Police, Shesh Paul Vaid, said that the Internet services in the Valley will be fully restored by Thursday night.
A vast majority of voters stayed away from the polling as no votes were polled at 27 out of 38 polling stations, the official sources said. The 2.02 percent turnout is the lowest in the election history of Jammu and Kashmir, they added.
Witnesses and official sources said that while not a single vote was polled at 27 polling stations, three out of 7,122 votes were cast in Budgam, 261 out of 14,837 in Chadoora, 58 out of 8,126 in Charar-e-Sharief and 357 out of 4, 233 in Beerwah segments.
The Kashmiri separatists have termed the lowest turnout as their victory and said that the same should service as “eye-opener” to New Delhi and its “stooges” in the State. The alliance of key separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik which had asked the people to boycott the elections on the premise that any such exercise held within the ambit of Indian Constitutions cannot be a substitute to promised plebiscite said in a statement here, “Delhi and its henchmen must stop these flop shows and foolish moves as these are proving a nuisance and a reason for continuous bloodshed.”
The Mirwaiz also wrote on micro-blogging site Twitter.com “The utter contempt people of #Kashmir have shown towards farce called ‘election’, an eye-opener for those who can’t read writing on the wall”. Former Chief Minister and opposition National Conference working president, Omar Abdullah, while reacting to 2.02 percent voter turnout tweeted “If you thought things couldn’t get worse than the 7 % we saw on the 9th of April.”
Though the CEO said the entire exercise was “a peaceful affair” and thanked people and officials for making it so, street clashes were reported from a few areas of Budgam during or soon after the re-poll was over. The security forces fired teargas canisters and shotgun pellets to disperse stone-throwing crowds while the former were withdrawing from poll duty in NasurUllah Pora village of Budgam. The locals alleged that the security forces ransacked some residential houses and damaged stationary cars and other vehicles in the area, the charge denied by the authorities. Clashes were reported also from Beerwah, Soibug, Magh-e-Mehtab and a couple of other areas but these were ‘marginal’ when compared to Sunday’s violence and mayhem witnessed across the constituency, the police sources said.
The by-poll result will be declared on April 15. The by-poll to the two Lok Sabha seats in Kashmir Valley- Srinagar and Anantnag-were necessitated by the resignation of sitting members of ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) including its president Mehbooba Mufti. While Ms. Mufti who was elected from home constituency Anantnag in the 2014 elections quit her Lok Sabha seat to fulfil the Constitutional obligation following her appointment as Chief Minister, her party colleague Tariq Hameed Karra resigned from both the PDP and Parliament in protest against its forging an alliance with ideologically-divergent BJP to form coalition government in the State. The voting in Anantnag is scheduled to be held on Wednesday.