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Business News/ Politics / News/  Lok Sabha Election 2024: What does Srinagar’s record voter turnout tell us about J&K's Article 370 scrapping?

Lok Sabha Election 2024: What does Srinagar’s record voter turnout tell us about J&K's Article 370 scrapping?

High voter turnout in Srinagar in Lok Sabha elections 2024 on Monday is attributed to improved security and hope for better future, with no boycott recorded and regional parties dominating the race.

Voters queue up to cast their ballots at a polling station during the fourth phase of voting in India�s general election, in Srinagar on May 13, 2024. (Photo by TAUSEEF MUSTAFA / AFP) (AFP)Premium
Voters queue up to cast their ballots at a polling station during the fourth phase of voting in India�s general election, in Srinagar on May 13, 2024. (Photo by TAUSEEF MUSTAFA / AFP) (AFP)

The Srinagar parliamentary constituency, which went to polling on May 13, recorded a voter turnout of about 38 per cent. This marks the highest turnout in the constituency since the 1996 general elections when it saw 40.9 per cent of voters exercising their franchise.

Comprising volatile old city and other areas of Srinagar district, as well as Budgam, Ganderbal, Pulwama and Shopian, the constituency has witnessed low voter turnout in the last few decades during Lok Sabha elections.

Also Read: Lok Sabha Election 2024: At 38%, Srinagar records highest voter turnout since 1996

The constituency has recorded 14.43 per cent turnout in 2019, 25.86 per cent in 2019, 25.55 per cent in 2009, 18.57 per cent in 2004, 11.93 per cent in 1999, 30.06 per cent in 1998 and 40.94 per cent in 1996 general election. No election was held in 1991 due to turmoil in the valley.

Departure from previous elections

In a departure from previous elections, Monday’s polling in Srinagar was held without any boycott calls from any group. This perhaps explains why people enthusiastically flaunted their fingers with indelible ink mark after casting votes, another rarity in Kashmir.

“This time, there was no boycott, and no polling station recorded zero per cent votes, which speaks of people’s firm trust in the democratic system as imperative for their overall welfare," Chief Election Officer, Pandurang K Pole, said.

The CEO attributed the high turnout to ‘improved security and law and order environment in last few years, and more importantly, a strong belief of the voters that “it is the ballot which can lead to sustainable development in the region", among other things.

Also Read: Kashmir News: Three-way fight in NC bastion Srinagar in phase 4 Lok Sabha polls today

Some voters said their choice was driven by hope for a better future. “I know three MPs in the 543-member Lok Sabha is nothing numerically. At least we can have three leaders represent us in the Lok Sabha," said Mudasir Bhat, a voter from Bemina suburb. One of the three parliamentary seats of Kashmir, Srinagar, was among the 96 seats that voted in Phase 4 of Lok Sabha elections across ten states and J&K UT  on May 13.

The Post Article 370 Polls

The Lok Sabha Elections 2024 mark the first general elections in the erstwhile state since the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution in August 2019 by the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP)-ruled Union government.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi applauded the people of Srinagar for the ‘encouraging’ turnout, saying that the abrogation of Article 370 has enabled people to fully express their potential and aspirations.

The BJP has not fielded any candidate in any of the three seats in Kashmir, including Srinagar. The contest in Srinagar is perceived to  be between candidates from two regional parties, the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Both these parties had been vocal critics of the Centre’s decision to scrap Article 370 and 35A in August 2019.

Though rivals, but NC’s Aga Ruhullah and PDP’s Waheed Para have separately sought votes from people against the revocation of special status in 2019.

BJP Proxies in Fray

The Altaf Bukhari-led JK Apni Party (AP) has fielded former minister Mohammad Ashraf Mir for the Srinagar seat. The AP candidate is backed by Sajad Lone’s JK People’s Conference (PC). Both AP and PC are rumoured to be political parties close to the BJP, a charge they have denied.

Also Read:  In first Lok Sabha election post Article 370 scrapping, BJP not in the fray in 3 Kashmir seats

“The elections on Monday were held in a different political context. From what I understand, people have voted for the two main regional parties undermined by the Centre in recent times. We will know who wins later, but a relatively better turnout is a positive sign," said Noor Ahmad Baba, who retired as a professor of political science at the University of Kashmir. The turnout would have been higher, had BJP fielded its candidate, he said. 

Many in Kashmir said that Monday’s vote was against the decision of scrapping Article 370. “We haven’t had an elected government since 2018. Who do you go for getting your work done when you have no local representative? We have had enough boycott calls now. We too want to prosper in life like others," said a voter in downtown Srinagar who did not want to be named.

Vote for Regional Parties

Political analyst Siddiq Wahid said that the high turnout demonstrates that Kashmir was eager to voice its concern about its loss of voice.

Also Read: Kashmir News: ‘Return of dignity snatched by Article 370 is my concern,’ NC's Srinagar candidate Aga Ruhullah

"A voice is now needed more than ever to protect its rights in the area of employment, entrepreneurial wealth opportunities, land ownership and cultural identities. Incidentally, a concern not just in Kashmir but also Ladakh and Jammu," he told LiveMint.

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Published: 14 May 2024, 04:53 PM IST
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