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Voter wave: 53% turnout touches 35 year high in Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha seat

Voter wave: 53% turnout touches 35 year high in Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha seat

By Majid Jahangir
Anantnag/Kulgam, May 25 (UNI) After record-breaking polling in Srinagar and Baramulla constituencies, the Anantnag- Rajouri parliamentary constituency recorded a 53 percent polling – nearly a four-fold increase in the voting turnout from the previous Lok Sabha polls.
The figure may go up as polling data was still pouring in from remote areas.
This is also the highest voter turnout in south Kashmir constituency since the eruption of militancy in early 1990’s.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency had recorded a low voter turnout of 9 % while the Rajouri-Poonch area, which was then part of Jammu Lok Sabha seat, recorded over 72% voting.
Overall, the voter turnout in all the five Parliamentary Constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir is 58 percent.

Before 2019, South Kashmir formed a single parliamentary constituency. However, following delimitation, the Anantnag-Rajouri seat was created, combining 7 assembly segments from Jammu division and 11 from Kashmir division.
The voter turnout in the South Kashmir Lok Sabha seat stood at 28.8% in 2014, 27.1% in 2009 , 14.7 % 2004, 14.3 % in 1999, 28.15% in 1998 ,50.2% in 1996, 5.07% in 1989 and 70.1% in 1984 elections.

While the voting across the trans Pir Panchal constituency was held mostly in a peaceful manner, the poll day was marred by a major controversy after former chief minister and Peoples Democratic Party candidate from Anantnag- Rajouri Lok Sabha seat Mehbooba Mufti staged a sit-in protest in Bijbehara Anantnag against the alleged arrest of the party workers and polling agents.

Jammu and Kashmir Police, however, asserted that "very few” people having 'tainted past' were taken into 'preventive' custody.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Electoral Officer Pandurang K Pole said police had picked up some persons with past records and Over Ground Workers (OGWs) in as a preventive measure.
Later in a press conference Mufti accused J&K Lt Governor of “tactical rigging” by arresting the party workers on eve of polls.
Across the south Kashmir parliamentary constituency, spread over three districts of Shopian, Kulgam, and Anantnag , the atmosphere was calm around polling stations, with voters young and old queuing up since the morning.

Significantly, the separatist bastions that always heeded election boycotts in the past – kept a date with polling this time. The areas including Arwani, Qaiamoh, Khudwani, Srigufwara, Anantnag and Bijbehara witnessed an impressive voter turnout. Several activists of banned Jamat-e-Islami and Peoples League in many areas also turned out to vote.

At four polling stations housed in a Higher Secondary school in Qaimoh Kulgam out of 1718 votes, 886 were polled by 3.30 pm. This area was once a hotbed of militancy.
“We hope that our vote will change the situation and end unemployment. We also hope that those behind bars will be released,” said Aijaz Ahmed, a voter outside a polling station in Qaimoh.

At Khudwani village, people also came out to vote, which was in total contrast to the previous polls when this was the boycott capital of south Kashmir.

At Bijbehara Anantnag , which is Mufti's home town, a large number of voters were seen waiting for their turn to enter the polling station. Ten kilometres away at Srigufwara, which has witnessed boycotts in the past, young and old headed towards the polling station setup at a PHE Kerkadal.

“We voted with the hope that there will be some relief to commoners in day-to-day lives,” said Tariq Ahmed, a local resident.

People came out in droves in several segments of Kulgam district.

The 2024 Lok Sabha elections is the first major polls in Jammu and Kashmir since the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019.

J&K officials said the Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha seat recorded the highest ever poll percentage since the eruption of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir.

“Important factors which can be attributed to the increased record polling percentage are improved security – law and order environment in last 4-5 years, mobilization by 20 candidates and political parties, election awareness through SVEEP activities and more importantly voters strong belief that it is the Ballot which can lead to sustainable development (aman, tarraki aur khush-hali),” an official spokesman said.

The constituency witnessed a triangular contest between Peoples Democratic Party’s president Mehbooba Mufti , National Conference’s influential Gujjar leader Mian Altaf and Apni Party’s Zaffar Manhas.

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