Akeel Rashid

What do just-held LS polls in Bla say about to-be-held polls in Sgr, Antng

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Srinagar, Apr 14: The first phase of Lok Sabha (LS) polls in the state of Jammu and Kashmir ended short of “peace” on April 11, as one young boy died in forces’ action and several others were injured after being shot with pellets.

If one goes back to last one decade, elections in Kashmir have remained susceptible to violence and this violence has either got manifested ahead of voting or on the day of polling. But this time the pre-poll situation in the Valley remained calm, especially in north Kashmir where a good number of election rallies were organized, which also witnessed huge participation of people.

It was on the day of polling that the incidents of violence were reported from Langate, where a young boy lost his life, and Duroo village of Sopore, where a 15-year-old boy received serious pellet injuries in his left eye and few others suffered minor injuries. These incidents of violence occurred in the aftermath of polling processes when the election staff was withdrawing from the areas.

Though incident-free election rallies in north Kashmir could have been looked upon as a fair indication of impressive voter turnout, nevertheless the anti-poll factors yet again played out in certain areas, which have long remained inauspicious to mainstream politics.

According to the official figures, a near total boycott was witnessed in Sopore, Palhallan, Baramulla town and Hajin. The inhabitants of these areas, barring Hajin, which has lately seen a considerable rise in militancy, have long remained alienated from the mainstream politics and inclined towards separatist sentiment which meant that the boycott calls issued by separatists and militant threats had a bearing on them.

The influence of the anti-poll factors in north Kashmir can be gauged in the light of the fact that 35.01 percent of the electorate exercised their franchise on April 11, lowest as compared to 2014 (39.6 percent), for the Baramulla Lok Sabha constituency.

However, one can argue that the LS polls in north Kashmir were “quite a success”, given the overall situation in the Valley since 2016 unrest.

The hindsight about LS polls in north Kashmir, analysed against the backdrop of apparent anti-poll factors, offer a foresight about electoral participation in Srinagar and Anantnag constituencies.

Firstly, the bypoll to Srinagar LS constituency in 2017 witnessed a record low voter turnout of 7 percent, a voter trend that can be traced back to peak militancy period.

Secondly, the contentious nature of Anantnag, one of the six LS constituencies in J&K, got established after it became the longest delayed bypoll in the country since 1996.

The evident ‘hostility’ between the people and the political system suggests that the impact of anti-poll factors will play out to a large extent in south Kashmir. More to the point, south Kashmir being a hotbed of militancy and Jamaat bastion, the authorities have already sensed people’s hostility as the Eelection Commission has decided to conduct Anantnag LS polls in three phases.

Now, it remains to be seen whether the anti-poll factors in Srinagar and south Kashmir will bring about inevitable results there.

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