Election Commission Figures Show Most Kashmiri Pandits Kept Away From Polling

16 December 2014
Iftikhar Gilani and Amita Shah

New Delhi: The Election Commission figures are bound to upset the BJP's calculations, which was banking on migrant Pandit votes to open its account in the Muslim-dominated Kashmir region, particularly the Srinagar's Habba Kadal constituency. Of the 31,000 migrant voters, only 5,169 cast their ballot, according to chief electoral officer, J&K, Umang Narula. The BJP, which swept Lok Sabha polls in mainland India in summer and won in two states thereafter, has put in all efforts to open its account in Muslim-dominated Kashmir with PM Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah, HM Rajnath Singh, FM Arun Jaitley, MoS Jitendra Singh holding a series of rallies in Srinagar and other areas besides running an aggressive PR campaign. The BJP was eyeing the boycott factor majorly in Habba Kadal segment which witnessed a polling percentage of 11.62 in 2008 and 21.01% on Sunday's elections with an increase of around 10 per cent. However, only 2,817 migrant voters cast their ballot in the segment indicating that the BJP's march to Kashmir comes to an end with this phase of elections. According to BJP state leader Ashok Kaul, there were 16,000 migrant Kashmiri Pandits in the voter list of Habba Kadal but the forms of all execpt 5,000 were rejected. He, however, refuted the assumption that this would shatter the BJP's hopes. 'There were only a couple of seats on which their votes depended,' he said. President of Kashmiri Pandit Sangarsh Samiti (KPSS), Sanjay Tickoo, said the Kashmiri Pandit leadership has been riled with prime minister Narendra Modi, who didn't touch on rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits in his Srinagar rally, and feel the BJP, like other political parties, was making hollow promises. 'The BJP which is now in power has changed its stance over key political issues. When the party was in opposition it would blame the separatists for the violence in Kashmir, but now the party has been trying to take credit for the swift action against army personnel in the incident involving the killing of civilians in Chattergam,' he said. Tickoo said the BJP which has mentioned in its manifesto that it will reserve the seats for Kashmiri Pandits was only making a 'hollow promise'. He agreed with Kaul that the low registration among Kashmiri Pandits was also due to 'red-tapism'. 'Many of the M-forms which were filled by the migrants were rejected by the District Electoral Officers,' Tickoo said. BJP's Habba Kadal candidate, Moti Koul said he was expecting that the voting percentage among the Pandits will be higher. 'Names of many of the voters were missing from the electoral rolls and voters didn't find their names enrolled at the nearest polling booths due to which the percentage was lesser,' Koul said. He, however, rebuffed the allegations that PM Modi gave a cold shoulder to Kashmiri Pandits during his address in Srinagar rally. 'People have been excited about the elections due to the rallies addressed by the prime minister. The voting percentage was double than the last time in Habba Kadal constituency,' said Koul. President of Panun Kashmir, Ashwani Chrungoo, said they had brought to the notice of Election Commission many a time that the voters have to deal with cumbersome procedure for casting the ballot. 'Not only have the voters to register for the polling, but even they have to fill the M-forms to become eligible for voting. This is one of the main reasons that there has been low voter turnout,' said Chrungoo Constituency Pandit votes polled: Hazratbal 360, Zadibal 77, Eidgah 68, Khanyar 290, Habba Kadal 2817, Amira Kadal 837, Sonwar 236 and Batamaloo 484.