For the best experience, open
on your mobile browser or Download our App.

Amid Allegations of Officials 'Engineering' Outcome, Srinagar Votes in Lok Sabha Poll

The first election after Jammu and Kashmir was demoted to Union territory saw a voter turnout of a mere 36% till 5 pm on Monday.
A paramilitary trooper stands guard as voters wait for their turn outside a polling station in Srinagar’s Faqir Gojri locality. Photo: Ubaid Mukhtar.

Kangan (Ganderbal, J&K): The high-stakes Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) recorded a moderate voter turnout on Monday (May 13) with the opposition National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party again accusing the officials of engineering the poll outcome by “unnecessary interference” and police detentions.

According to official data, nearly 36% of voters had cast their ballot in the constituency till 5 pm as the government offices, educational institutions, banks and other businesses remained closed in the constituency to facilitate the electoral process – the first after Jammu and Kashmir was demoted into a Union territory.

All the shops, banks and government offices were closed while traffic was thin on roads in Kangan district. Photo: Jehangir Ali.

At a polling station in Kangan town of central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district, a group of voters reluctantly claimed to The Wire that they had voted for the youth leader and PDP candidate Waheed Parra, who is in the polling fray against the National Conference’s influential Shia leader Ruhullah Mehdi.

A middle-aged voter, who didn’t want to be identified, claimed that he was incarcerated for several months over his political ideology after Article 370 was read down by the Union government in 2019, “Waheed talks about unemployment and police harassment which are the real issues for so many Kashmiris. I had never voted in my life but today I decided to vote for him so that we can see a change,” he said.

Mohammad Maqbool, who cast his vote at 17-54 Kangan-B polling station of Ganderbal district, said that the PDP youth leader spoke about the issues of common people such as rising power bills, inflation and unemployment in his campaign which struck a chord with commoners.

“I voted to see him as our MP because he is courageous,” said Maqbool, father of two young sons, both graduates and jobless, and a school-going daughter, “When other parties protested against Article 370 in the parliament (in 2019), why did the MPs of National Conference hold back? Why didn’t they resign?”

Brisk voting was witnessed in the rural belts of Ganderbal, Budgam, Pulwama and Shopian districts where both the NC as well as the PDP enjoy significant support. However, low polling was recorded in Srinagar where the National Conference has a strong vote bank.

In Dara locality nestled in Zabarwan mountains on the outskirts of Srinagar, dozens of voters thronged the polling station which was set up inside a government-run middle school to exercise their franchise. Abdul Rashid, a local, said that he was voting for the National Conference candidate Ruhullah Mehdi.

“He is a young leader who speaks about the issues of commoners. We are daily wage earners but even finding a day of work is difficult these days. Nothing has been done to provide jobs to our youngsters. Inflation has skyrocketed,” said Rashid, who cast his ballot at 9-Faqir Gojri polling station of Srinagar district.

The polling day began with the PDP and NC leaders claiming that nocturnal raids were carried out in parts of the Srinagar constituency during which their workers and activists were allegedly detained.

In a video on X, formerly Twitter, NC youth president Salman Ali Sagar alleged that the NC polling agents were thrown out of polling stations as the voting was underway on Monday.

“I am uploading this video in the middle of the polling day because a serious situation had arisen where our senior and elderly workers are being called to police stations,” he said in the video, urging the Election Commission of India and lieutenant governor administration to allow people to vote like in other parts of the country.

The PDP candidate Parra said that voters were being harassed by officials “at various places” in the constituency. He alleged that the officials had refused to entertain the “duly signed agent slips” issued by the PDP’s chief polling agent, Mohit Bhan. This, he said, had “slowed down the voting process.”

Senior PDP leader and former J&K minister Naeem Akhtar also claimed that the voting was deliberately slowed down in Pulwama, Waheed’s home district, while appealing to the ECI to intervene in the release of Ashiq Hussian Rather, a PDP agent and Tral resident who he said was allegedly detained by Awantipora police from home during midnight on Sunday.

Former J&K minister and Apni Party leader Mohammad Ashraf Mir is also in the polling fray who repeated the allegations of his party president Altaf Bukhari that their workers and activists were detained in Srinagar, Budgam, Pulwama, and Shopian. However, like Bukhari, he too didn’t give out any antecedents of the ‘detained’ workers.

Meanwhile, the chief election officer of J&K, Pandurang K Pole, said on Sunday that the Election Commission of India had taken cognisance of “some grievances of alleged intimidation of political workers of certain parties and the use of Section 144 order.”

“CEO has talked personally to political leaders. He has clarified that as per rules, order under section 144 are issued in all districts, for the last 48 hours (silence period of campaigning) and accordingly these orders were issued in Udhampur and Jammu Parliamentary Constituency and are now issued for all districts of Srinagar Parliamentary Constituency, including Pulwama,” the CEO said in a post on X.

Rejecting the allegations of official interference in the ongoing election, Pole said that under rules, political parties have to take “special permissions” from authorities before organising any programme. “These permission (sic) are being issued without any discrimination and in an online mode through the centralised ‘Suvidha Portal’. Candidates are advised to consider the security concerns of specific areas,” he said, without addressing the issue of police detentions.

The Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency is one of the three parliamentary constituencies in Kashmir for which voting is underway. Srinagar will be followed by Anantnag on May 25 and finally Baramulla constituency where voting will be held on June 1.

The Lok Sabha elections are being held across seven phases in the country which started on April 19 and shall culminate on June 1. The counting will be done on June 4.

Make a contribution to Independent Journalism
facebook twitter