Voter turnout close to zero in Kashmir, at 3%

Voter turnout close to zero in Kashmir, at 3%
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Re-poll ordered in Anantnag ward due to malfunctioning EVM

Srinagar: The second phase of municipal elections drew a miserable turnout of 3 percent of voters in Kashmir on Wednesday, with 97 percent of the more than two lakh (2,18,876) electorate staying away from ballot booths. In contrast, Jammu saw 78.6 percent turnout in elections to 214 wards.
Figures compiled by the state election office said that the cumulative polling percentage in the two phases stood at 47.2 percent, with 67.7 percent voting recorded in Jammu division and 8.3 percent in Kashmir.
In four of the five Kashmir districts, the daylong voting which began before sunrise at 6am and terminated at 4pm recorded single-digit turnout. In 49 wards of five Kashmir municipalities, Bandipora’s Sumbal was the only place which saw a reasonable turnout of voters – at 35.6 percent – at polling stations.
In Anantnag, only 1 percent voters turned up to cast their votes in 16 wards, while Srinagar’s 19 wards drew a mere 2.3 percent of the electorate to polling booths. In Kupwara’s Langate, two wards registered 5.1 percent turnout while Baramulla’s single ward registered 7 percent. In 13 wards of Langate municipal committee, nine wards had single contestants elected unopposed. Two wards had no candidates. Similarly, of the 13 wards in Baramulla, eight candidates won unopposed and four wards had no candidates.
The election office announced that re-polling would be held in Anantnag’s polling station of Ward 23 on October 13 due to malfunctioning of electronic voting machine (EVM).
Of Jammu’s six districts, Reasi emerged on top recording 84.4 percent turnout. Ramban, Kathua and Udhampur registered above 79 percent turnout each while Doda and Kishtwar in Muslim-majority Chenab Valley saw 72.8 percent turnout, respectively. In Ramban, fresh elections would be conducted in Ward 2 as a contestant, Azad Singh Raju, died due to heart attack.
Held after 13 years, the civic elections are being boycotted by the two main regional political parties, NC and PDP. They have asked the Government of India to clear its stand on Article 35A, which is being challenged in the Supreme Court. The law grants special privileges and rights to JK citizens and bars non-state subjects from possessing property in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) had appealed to people to boycott the polls, describing them as a “farce”. Hizbul Mujahideen commander Riyaz Naikoo had threatened to blind contestants with sulphuric acid.
On Wednesday, 1,029 candidates were in the fray for 263 municipal wards in the state, with 148 in Kashmir and the remaining in Jammu. Interestingly, the elections are being held in Kashmir with voters not having a clue about candidates standing in the elections, marking a new low in the electoral history of J&K. Candidates have been put up in highly secured hotels in Srinagar and other districts.
Many residents of Srinagar woke up to surprise to find their area going to polls. Ashiq, an eligible voter from Chattabal, who stayed away from the ballot, told Kashmir Reader that he learnt about polling being held in his area at about 9am. “I don’t know who is contesting from our ward because no canvassing or rally was held here,” he said.
Curiously, the chief electoral office’s website stopped releasing hourly voter turnout figures after 2pm, giving legitimacy to rumours that the abysmal turnout in the Valley must have prompted the move. At 2pm, the figures were in single digits in four of the five Kashmir districts.
J&K Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Shaleen Kabra did not respond to repeated calls from Kashmir Reader. From the first phase of the elections itself, held on October 8, the election officer has abandoned the usual practice of holding a presser at the day’s end.