Srinagar: Despite the near-total boycott of municipal elections conducted in great secrecy this month, J&K chief election officer Shaleeen Kabra has once again requested voters to exercise their franchise in the panchayat elections that begin next month.
Kabra was addressing a presser here on Monday to announce the process for panchayat elections. He declined to discuss the reasons for the lowest-ever voter turnout (5.9 percent) in Kashmir’s electoral history, saying he was not the appropriate person to comment.
He said the election office only brought out advertisements, raised awareness about the right to vote, and where to cast the vote.
“It is my duty to request people to come out and vote. Why it (voter turnout) is low or not low is more of a matter that you should discuss with somebody else,” Kabra said.
According to him, the government has already started bringing out advertisements for the rural body polls, which he said would empower people in addressing local demands.
Asked about journalists not being allowed to enter polling booths, he admitted that the decision had been taken to not “unnecessarily” alarm voters who had come out to cast their vote.
“The media people can visit any polling booth, but it is extremely important that nothing should put them (voters) in discomfort and at a disadvantage,” he said.
Both reporters and photojournalists were not allowed by government forces to enter polling booths during the municipal elections. At some places, even the voters hurled stones at media persons and threatened them to leave.
The recently-concluded elections saw polling starting before sunrise at 6am, an unprecedented move that raised questions over the genuiness of the electoral exercise. Voters were also not told about the identity of the candidates, so as to safeguard the candidates from being targeted or ostracised.