Kashmiri separatists faced embarrassment on Thursday when a good number of people defied their poll-boycott call in the highly sensitive Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency and queued outside polling booths to cast their vote in spite of the tense situation.
The separatists, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik, had called for election boycott and shutdown to highlight the Kashmir issue. Their boycott call during the first-phase of polling in Baramulla on 11 April had also been defied.
Polling till 5 pm in Srinagar was over 15 per cent and it was above 65 per cent Udhampur. In the by-poll in 2017 when Farooq Abdullah had won, 7.14 per cent polling was recorded in Srinagar.
No untoward incident was reported till the afternoon as security forces, including Army, BSF, CRPF and ITBP, were deployed in strength.
Polling in the Budgam and Ganderbal districts was higher – 21 per cent and 18.8 per cent, respectively till 5 pm – than that of Srinagar where the separatists have influence in the thickly populated downtown areas.
The Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency covers three districts of Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal.
The Srinagar and Udhampur Lok Sabha constituencies that went to polls during the second of the five-phase election in Jammu and Kashmir had recorded combined 43.3 per cent polling till 5 pm.
Polling percentage was increasing despite last night’s attempt by terrorists to create fear among the electorate by tossing a petrol bomb at a polling booth in the government school in the Zainakadal area. No damage was caused and the miscreants escaped from there.
Polling booths remained virtually deserted in the first two hours till 9 am when only 0.9 per cent votes were cast in Srinagar, 1.6 per cent in Budgam and 1.2 per cent in Ganderbal. The poll percentage gradually kept moving upwards.
National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah is facing 11 other candidates in the Srinagar constituency. Farooq, accompanied by his son Omar Abdullah, went to cast his vote at a polling station in Srinagar.
The Udhampur constituency of the Jammu division, where Jitendera Singh, minister of state in the PMO, is seeking another inning, witnessed brisk polling. The six districts – Reasi, Kathua, Udhampur, Ramban, Doda and Kishtwar – reflected a high-level enthusiasm among the electorate.
In Udhampur, the contest is mainly among the four Rajput candidates including Jitendera Singh. The others are Dogra dynast scion and Congress candidate Vikramaditya Singh, Dogra Swabhiman Sangathan founder Choudhary Lal Singh and Panthers Party chairman Harshdev Singh.
The contest has become nail-biting with presence of Lal Singh, who resigned from BJP over the party’s stand on the rape-murder of a minor Gujjar girl in the Kathua district.
Kishtwar, Doda and Ramban districts, which have influence of the Kashmir separatists, recorded low polling of 4 per cent, 9.7 per cent and 2.8 per cent in the first two hours, but the polling percentage increased during the day. The polling percentage in the six districts till 5 pm was: Reasi 69.8, Kathua 69.8, Udhampur 72.2, Ramban 56.4, Doda 60.5 and Kishtwar 60.
The Kishtwar town had recently witnessed two terrorism related incidents in which two brothers (both BJP leaders) and an RSS leader were killed.
Former chief minister and NC leader Omar Abdullah appealed people in the Udhampur constituency to vote for the Congress candidate Vikramaditya Singh.
Omar tweeted; “To all my colleagues & @JKNC_ supporters in Ramban, Kishtwar, Doda, Udhampur & Kathua go out & cast your vote against the divisive, destructive politics of the BJP/RSS. Vote for @vikramaditya_JK & send a progressive voice to represent you in the Lok Sabha. #Elections2019”.