LS polls: Since ‘96, Jammu, Ladakh major contributors to overall poll percentage

SRINAGAR: While the people’s participation in elections held in Jammu and Kashmir is being seen as an encouraging sign by many, statistics suggest that stable Jammu and Ladakh have been the major contributors to the turnout figures in past 20 years as compared to conflict-ridden Kashmir Valley.
Since 1996, four parliamentary elections have been held in the state—1996, 2004 and 2009, with the fourth one under progress.
The records maintained by the Election Commission of India (ECI), however, suggest that turnout in the less-populated Jammu and Ladakh has provided major boost to the overall turnout figure, which has fluctuated by not much between the elections.
Last time the state participated in the Lok Sabha elections was in 2009, and it is believed to have been the fairest of all elections held in the state thus far.
As per the ECI figures, the electorate strength in the state was 6,57,2896 and of them 2,60,5966 exercised their franchise—an overall poll percentage of 39.68. But about 60 per cent of the overall participation had come from Jammu and Ladakh while three constituencies of Kashmir Valley contributed only 40 per cent.
Earlier, parliamentary elections had been held in the state in 2004 with 6,36,8115 eligible voters. Only 35.20 per cent (2,24,1729) of the electorate had exercised their franchise, of which about 70 per cent was in Jammu and Ladakh constituencies. The Valley was the minor contributor with just 30 per cent votes polled.
The first of the three previous elections was held at the peak of militancy in 1996. The elections, held before the Governor’s rule ended in the state after about six years, is tainted with widespread allegations of coercion by army and other government forces.
That year too, Jammu and Ladakh provided major boost to the overall turnout, which has been highest in the three elections—48.96 per cent. But only 47 per cent of it had come from the Valley while 53 per cent came from the other two regions of the state.
The ongoing elections are expected to have a higher turnout than all previous elections. Polling has already been held in two phases in Jammu and Udhampur constituencies in the Jammu regions.
The turnout in Jammu, according to the Election Commission, was 68 per cent while 69 per cent of the electorate voted in Udhampur LS segment falling in the Jammu region on Thursday.
Three constituencies of the Valley and one of Ladakh will go to polls in three phases in the coming weeks. Whether Jammu and Ladakh continue to lend respect to the overall poll percentage or the Valley throws a surprise shall be the thing to look out for when polling concludes on May 7.