October 2018 News

Boycott, Secrecy Mar J&K Civic Polls As Kashmir Registers 4.2% Turnout In Final Phase

17 October 2018

Srinagar: The final phase of the Jammu and Kashmir municipal polls concluded on October 16, clocking a voter turnout of 4.2 percent - lowest for any election in the Valley. The turnout on October 16 beat the previous worst of 5.6 percent registered during the 1989 Lok Sabha elections. Overall, the local polls witnessed a turnout of 31.1 percent, factoring in both Kashmir and Jammu regions. The first phase on October 8 saw an 18.6-percent turnout in Kashmir and 65 percent in Jammu. The voter turnout in the Kashmir region fell further to 3.4 percent and 3.5 percent in the second and the third phase respectively. In Jammu, the turnout picked up, registering 78.6 percent and 81.4 percent in the second and third phase respectively. The fourth phase was conducted only in the Kashmir region. According to J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik, the absence of violence during the polls should be considered as a silver lining. 'Some people are trying to create disturbances but we have made fool proof security arrangements. Now, we have to ensure safety of candidates who win,' Malik told The Economic Times. According to the newspaper, polling station number one in Hazratbal registered only seven votes out of the 873 registered, in during the fourth phase. Station number 14 did not see any voter until 2.00 pm. There were clashes between locals and security forces in Rainawari and a makeshift polling station was reportedly left damaged. Factors that may have led to a low turnout Observers have noted that various factors contributed to the low turnout of voters in Kashmir region. The factors included a boycott called by the state's two leading parties - National Conference (NC) and People's Democratic Party (PDP). Both the parties had pulled out of the elections citing the Centre's unclear stand on Article 35A. Rise in militancy, especially in south Kashmir, where policemen have been abducted and killed in recent days, has also been cited as one of the reasons for the low voter turnout. According to data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), over 300 people, including civilians and security personnel have died in the state between January and September. Data from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) for the year 2017-18 had shown a 167 percent rise in civilian deaths in the Valley, compared to 2015-16. Candidates had not held any rallies or campaigned during the recent local body polls. Moreover, their names and political affiliations had also remained undisclosed citing security reasons.