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User Name: abdulruff
Full Name: Dr.Abdul Ruff Colachal
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Jammu Kashmir Poll 2014: Increase in voting percentage signals Kashmiri boldness

(A Free Kashmir: Random Thoughts-211)


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Voters lined up at polling stations in Jammu Kashmir, occupied by India and disputed between India and Pakistan, on November 25 , braving cold weather and ignoring a boycott call by freedom groups, the so-called separatists, to elect an assembly that the ruling Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party is hoping to take control for the first time to  make the first ever Hindu chief minister of JK . The voters in 15 constituencies that went to the poll, with nearly 10.52 lakh voters being eligible to vote,  over 70 per cent polling without any incident, in the first phase of a staggered process stood in long queues to cast their choice from among a clutch of parties including the BJP. More parts of Jammu and Kashmir will go to the polls in the next several weeks and the result will be declared on Dec. 23.

A 61 per cent voter turnout was recorded in the 2008 Assembly polls for these 15 seats — 6 in Jammu division, 5 in Kashmir Valley and four in Ladakh. Today’s polling was spread over seven districts. “Polling has gone absolutely peaceful without any incident. It was 100 per cent flawless polls and there was not a single incident which vitiates poll process,” Deputy Election Commissioner Vinod Zutshi told reporters in Delhi.

Pakistan controls a third of the Himalayan region and has repeatedly called for talks to resolve the 67-year-old dispute over the territory but India does not want to solve the issue.

Heavy turnout of 70% voters is being explained in many ways. Some said they had come out to vote in the hope that there would be development in a region held back by years of strife and a devastating flood this year that destroyed homes and livelihoods. Others said Kashmiris want to block the  Hindu communal forces to  settle down in JK to  execute their Hindutva ideology as they are wary of the BJP and its bid to seize power in Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir that has enjoyed a special status in the Indian constitution since the Himalayan region was divided in the Partition of 1947.

In the Kashmir Valley, the bone of contention between India and Pakistan, Modi's party is hoping to win over independents, engineer splits in regional parties and get Hindus who fled during the revolt to register and vote. “We are coming out in large numbers to vote to block the Modi wave. We feel they will erode the special status of Kashmir and change the demography of the state as BJP is working on secret agenda," said a young voter in Ganderbal constituency after voting.

A total of 123 candidates including seven ministers were in the fray with the ruling coalition partners National Conference and Congress and the Opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and BJP fighting for the spoils. In five Kashmir Valley constituencies, two in Ganderbal district recorded 68 per cent turnout — an increase of 13 per cent from 2008 assembly polls — while three in Bandipora district recorded 70.30 per cent, registering an increase of 11 per cent. In six seats of Jammu division, two constituencies in Doda district recorded a turnout of 76 per cent while it was 70 per cent each for the four seats in Kishtwar and Ramban districts. While there was increase of eight per cent in Doda district and nearly four per cent in Ramban district, Kishtwar district recorded a drop of over three per cent. The four constituencies of Ladakh region, which normally witnesses high voter turnout, marked a decrease in number of voters exercising their franchise. In two constituencies of Leh district, the turnout was 57 per cent, down from 61.88 per cent in 2008 assembly polls and substantially down from 68.23 per cent registered during the Lok Sabha polls earlier this year. In Kargil district, 59 per cent voters cast their votes against 72.90 per cent in 2008 elections.

Early morning chill and fog failed to dampen the spirits of the voters who had assembled at the polling stations an hour before the scheduled start of voting. The five assembly constituencies of Kashmir Valley, where the turn out used to be usually lower than in the segments in Jammu division owing the boycott call by the separatists, voters came in large numbers . “Reports of brisk polling in the Valley are very encouraging. Glad to hear turnout in Chenab valley seats also picking up,” Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said, commenting on the early trends of voting. He wished “good luck to all the voters braving the cold weather” and urged them to vote in large numbers and “vote with your hearts”.

The BJP has little presence in the Kashmir Valley, but emboldened by Modi's stunning victory in national elections earlier this year, it is hoping to pick most seats from the Hindu-dominated Jammu and Buddhist Ladakh parts of the state. "The time is ripe for political change here," Modi told a rally at the weekend, promising to turn a region of snow-clad mountains and gushing streams into a top tourist destination.


The lack of effect of the boycott call was evident from the fact that long queues could be seen even at polling stations where the separatists had posted their anti-election material. Reports suggest that militants hurled grenades at two polling stations in Bandipora and Sonawari constituencies without any deaths or injuries. A minor clash broke out between supporters of ruling National Conference and opposition PDP at a polling station in Baroosa area of Ganderbal constituency.

While most of the old timers turned up to vote based on their ideological affiliations, development and unemployment was the key issue for the first time voters.

Parliamentary elections in Jammu Kashmir are usually marked by the country's lowest turn-out and heavy militant violence, exacerbating tensions in a region where tens of thousands have died in a 25-year revolt for freedom form Indian yoke.

 JK assembly elections are more important than the parliamentary poll. It seems the Hurriyat groups have committed yet another blunder by ignoring the polls, for which they will have to repent. . 

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