LS polls: Will North Kashmir too opt for boycott?

SRINAGAR: After consistently low turnout in Anantnag and Srinagar parliamentary constituencies, Baramulla in north Kashmir faces a tough test of choosing between its voting reputation and the ongoing trend of boycott.
Of the three Lok Sabha constituencies in the Valley, Baramulla has been the most consistent in the terms of voter turnout. Since 1996, the turnout percentage has stayed close to 50 percent and has been most of the times higher than that of Srinagar and Anantnag.
According to figures of Election Commission of India, in 1996 around 46.65 percent of the registered voters had come out in Baramulla constituency, which comprises many north Kashmir districts. The turnout had been higher than that of Srinagar where 40.94 per cent electorate had voted and only marginally lower than that of Anantnag where the official turnout was about 50 percent.
While the turnout in 1996 election may not be seen an indicator of people’s participation in the ballot due to the widespread coercion by army, the high turnout at Baramulla has nevertheless only stayed consistent in the other two elections held in 2004 and 2009.
In 2004, 35.65 percent of the voters cast their ballot. The figure was almost twice of what had been witnessed at Srinagar (18 percent) and Anantnag (15 percent) constituencies. And the last parliamentary election in Baramulla in 2009 saw even higher turnout of 41.84 percent. Again, the turnout had been far better than in Srinagar and Anantnag where only 25 percent and 27 percent of the voters, respectively, had come out to vote.
Baramulla, like other constituencies in the Valley, has had its pro-election and pro-boycott pockets. While the pro-boycott areas like Sopore and old town Baramulla have been seeing low turnout, the people’s participation in polling in the other areas like Uri has apparently resulted in the higher turnout percentage overall.
In the previous assembly and parliamentary elections, held in 2008 and 2009 respectively, the voting trend had remained unchanged even as the turnout in the constituency was generally higher. In fact, many volatile areas like Bandipora had witnessed voters’ turn enthusiastic about elections.
Now, as Srinagar and Anantnag constituencies have set the trend of election boycott (more than 70 percent people didn’t vote in each constituency), all eyes would be on election in Baramulla on Wednesday to see whether the constituency goes with the ongoing mood in the Valley or present another impressive turnout.