Contrary to expectations, the polling percentage in the just concluded District Development Council (DDC) elections in Kashmir saw a sharp rise compared to 2018 Panchayat and 2019 Parliamentary polls.
The DDC polls marked the first electoral exercise post abrogation of special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcation of erstwhile state into two union territories last August.
The voter turnover in 2019 Lok Sabha elections in Baramulla, Srinagar and Anantnag Parliament constituencies was 34%, 14% and 8.76% respectively, while only 30% panchayat halqas in Kashmir saw polling in 2018 Panchayat elections.
Shopian and Pulwama districts, part of Anantnag LS seat, in fact, saw no polling at all. Kulgam had no polling in 99% of halqas and no candidate for 87% of its sarpanch posts while Anantnag saw no contest in 76% of its halqas.
However, in the DDC polls increase in voting percentage was significant in all the four south Kashmir districts, considered as hotbeds of new age militancy in the Valley. Kulgam recorded 28.9% polling in the DDC polls while Shopian recorded 17.5%. Though turnout remained a cause of concern in Pulwama, it too went up from the previous two elections held in 2018 and 2019. Pulwama had recorded 1.1% polling in 2018 and 1.2% in 2019, which went up to 7.4% this time.
Similarly, Sopore area in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district which was once a stronghold of separatists, registered 23.8% polling in DDC elections compared to just 7.6% in the Parliamentary polls. In the central Kashmir district of Budgam, turnout was almost the same at 21.9 and 21.6% in 2018 and 2019 elections but has doubled to 42.4% in 2020.
Ganderbal district recorded 27.4% in 2018 and 17.5% in 2019 which now stood at 43.4%. In north Kashmir’s Bandipora district, polling turnout has gone up from 44% in Panchayat polls and 32% in Parliamentary elections to 51.7% in the DDC polls.
There had been no boycott call from separatists or any other organisation this time, nor was there any incident of stone pelting, which boosted confidence of the candidates as well as voters and they came out in good numbers to cast their votes.
The sharp increase in voter turnout figures in the Kashmir valley is a big boost in terms of making elections participative. This becomes all the more important as J&K assembly elections are also waiting to be conducted.