Time of reckoning: elections come to south Kashmir

Time of reckoning: elections come to south Kashmir

SHOPIAN: From a festive season of poll campaigning in northern Kashmir and then low voter turnout in central Kashmir, Lok Sabha elections in Kashmir are nearing their climax in southern Kashmir. In Shopian district, except a government circuit house on outskirts of Shopian town, there has been no place considered fit to hold a public rally or election gathering.
While Anantnag district will first vote in the elections for the south Kashmir constituency, Shopian and Pulwama districts will vote last in the third phase on May 6. Both political parties and voters are clueless about what will happen on election day. Most people opine that there would be the lowest voter turnout ever.
So far, two political parties, the Congress and the PDP, have held party workers’ conventions in Shopian district but without the presence of any top political leader, at the government circuit house of Shopian with adequate measures of security.
A new member of the Congress party in Shopian told Kashmir Reader that the prevailing situation in south Kashmir, particularly in Shopian and Pulwama districts, is not suitable for holding public gatherings and other means of campaigning.
“The people are angry at what they have faced from governments and they have been pushed towards violence,” he said, adding that the Congress was doing door-to-door campaigning but with precautions.
The major means in rural areas for political parties to reach people and get votes have been the Panchs and Sarpanchs, but in Shopian’s 98 Sarpanch seats and 791 Panch seats, only 34 Sarpanchs and 111 Panchs have been elected, without any vote cast, as there was none to oppose them in the elections. Most of these new Panchs and Sarpanchs, according to an official from the district administration, are unknown to the people, even to fellow villagers.
A political worker from Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said that they will now start campaigning in southern Kashmir as the elections in both north and central Kashmir have ended. “Our focus is on south Kashmir now,” he said.
Political observers believe that the ongoing situation and killing of several militants and civilians since 2016 is cause enough for low voter turnout in the region, probably the lowest ever.
“There is a big difference between polls of 2024 and of 2019. The elections were being discussed then in every nook and corner but now people are agitated against political parties. People have faced much violence and wrath of government forces,” a political analyst said, wishing not to be named.