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At 36% turnout, Srinagar shows trailer for 2024 assembly polls

May 14, 2024

SRINAGAR:  With more than 36 percent turnout in the first big election since the abrogation of Article 370, Srinagar may well have set a tone for massive public participation in the assembly elections scheduled to be held later this year.

With no boycott call this time around and a general sense of safety for the voters as well as the candidates, Srinagar witnessed a different electoral vibe with anyone who wanted to vote going and voting without any hassles.

What is even more noticeable is the fact there was no poll-related violence reported from anywhere in the Srinagar parliamentary constituency. Serpentine queues have been outside polling booths since morning. It was a festive-like atmosphere in Srinagar as young, and old, women thronged to polling booths to exercise their ballot.

For the first time in 34 years, there was no hartal on election day. Shops were open and private transport was plying on the roads. Even there was no frisking on checking though forces were deployed in strengthen to maintain order. People were seen moving freely and even gossiping outside polling booths, a rare scene witnessed in three decades.

“There are other issues which people are facing right now, there is poverty, unemployment,” said 50-year-old Ghulam Muhammad Bhat, who voted for the first time in three decades on Monday.

Rafiqa, 56, said she was seeking a change since “our children are jobless”, an issue reiterated by first-time voter Rabia Akhtar.

Chief Electoral Officer P.K Pole said that the polling percentage remained until 5 P.M. stood at 36 percent, marking the second-highest turnout since 1989. He added that not even a single polling booth witnessed zero percent polling in Srinagar parliamentary constituency.

  “People voted in large numbers here. We are thankful to every person involved in making this democratic process a success,” said Pole while addressing media persons in Srinagar.

Pole estimated the final polling percentage to be approximately 40 percent, noting the significant improvement in turnout compared to previous elections.

Pole said there were 2135 polling stations across 18 assembly segments. Over 8500 civil employees, along with police and CRPF personnel, double that number, worked tirelessly over the past two days to ensure the smooth conduct of the polls.

“We had special arrangements in place for females and aged persons, with every polling station under CCTV surveillance,” he added.

Pole said there were 2 lakh registered youth voters, and 26 special polling stations were set up for migrants, with over 6 thousand migrant voters casting their ballots, contributing to a tentative poll percentage of 36 percent among migrant voters.

Pole also addressed preventive measures, emphasizing the overall peaceful conduct of the polls. “Preventive measures were taken only in cases where individuals had a criminal background or anti—national history, ensuring that polling stations remained incident-free,” he clarified.

Pole added that Srinagar recorded the lowest EVM replacement rate at 0.1 percent, while Jammu reported the highest at 3 percent

Srinagar is the first Kashmir valley’s three seats to vote that went to polls. The turnout of almost 36% until 5 p.m. is more than double the 14.43% recorded in the last polls in 2019 but lower than the national average of about 62%.

With the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) skipping elections in Kashmir, the main players are the National Conference and People’s Democratic Party which have focused on restoration of semi-autonomy in their campaigns.

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