NEW DELHI: Under a heavy blanket of security, Srinagar recorded a dismal 13% voter turnout—down from 25.7% in 2014—as the valley went to the polls in the second phase of Lok Sabha elections on Thursday.
At the other end of the security spectrum, a paramilitary soldier was injured in a bomb blast in Naxal-hit Chhattisgarh, even though turnout was high.
In Kanker and Rajnandgaon, turnout stood at 71.19% and 71.55%, respectively. While Rajnandgaon was rocked by an improvised explosive device blast during the polls, in which an Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) soldier was injured, both areas defied calls for poll boycott by Naxals and large numbers turned out to vote. The Bastar Lok Sabha constituency saw a 56% voter turnout in the first phase.
With polling being conducted in five phases in Jammu and Kashmir, across six Lok Sabha seats, Srinagar and Udhampur cast their votes on Thursday. Interestingly, the turnout in Udhampur stood at 66.76%, down from 71.48% in 2014, with the BJP and Congress heavyweights Jitendra Singh and Vikramaditya Singh facing off.
The poor turnout, a senior leader in the state said, was not surprising, given the current security climate in the Kashmir valley.
“The people have been stifled, voices of democracy have been silenced and even the separatists have been jailed or put under house arrest to prevent any kind of disruption. To add to that, people have inertia to even go to polling booths, after going through intensive security checks, to cast their vote," said the leader, not wishing to be identified.
Analysts said that it was utter disillusionment among the people that had led to the poor turnout.
“Political parties come to power in Jammu and Kashmir because the people have no choice. They are not happy with either the PDP or the NC. The bottomline is—political parties have lost ground," said Nisar Ali, former dean of faculty of social sciences at Kashmir University and member of the J&K finance commission.
In Srinagar, National Conference (NC) chief Farooq Abdullah is up against the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) Aga Syed Mohsin, Irfan Ansari of the People’s Conference and Bharatiya Janata Party’s Sheikh Khalid Jehangir.
Voters in three constituencies in Chhattisgarh, including the Naxal-affected areas of Kanker and Rajnandgaon, exercised their franchise on Thursday. The third constituency is Mahasamund.
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