Jammu & Kashmir registered 50.08 % voter turnout on Monday in the fourth phase of the maiden District Development Council (DDC) polls, even as volatile south Kashmir's three districts saw single digit polling, dipping the aggregate turnout in the Kashmir valley to just 32%.
“A total of 50.08% voter turnout was registered in the fourth phase. The Kashmir division saw 31.95% turnout, while the Jammu division witnessed 69.31%,” State Election Commissioner, K.K. Sharma, said.
Despite the fresh spell of rains and snowfall, people, including women, queued up outside the polling booth early in the morning, especially in north Kashmir's Baramulla, Bandipora and Kupwara districts.
Official figures suggest Baramulla saw the highest 47.43% turnout followed by Bandipora with around 45.22% polling and Kupwara with 44.35%.
“We are enthusiastic about voting on two counts. One, it will provide a new interface to improve the governance at local levels. Two, these polls are also about making a political statement from the Kashmir Valley to the rest of the country about what people's sentiments are,” said Gaffar Malik, a voter, in Kupwara.
In central Kashmir’s Ganderbal, the voters turnout touched 56.28% and Budgam 38.04% mark.
In contrast to north and central Kashmir, the mood among voters was subdued in the three districts of south Kashmir, which have been in the throes of militancy and protests since 2016.
“Boycotting polls is also a democratic way to express our anger. We lost young boys in the past two years. Scores are maimed in protests. Who will come out to vote,” said Nazeer Joo, a resident of Shopian.
Except for Anantnag, which recorded 27.04% polling, south Kashmir’s Kulgam, Pulwama and Shopian saw single digit polling. According to the official figures Pulwama saw 8.73%, Pulwama 6.70% and 1.96% polling.
The Pulwama segment, where incarcerated Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader Waheed-ur-Rehman Parra is contesting polls, also saw very lower turnout.
“The sanctity of the polls have been dented by the arrest of Parra. He was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) just days after he filed his nomination,” said Sajid Mehraj, a supporter of Parra.
Meanwhile, the Jammu region witnessed growing participation of voters, who are eager to see faces on the basis of development and not ideological issues.
According to the SEC, Jammu’s Poonch saw the highest 75.42% voter turnout, followed by Doda with 75.03%, 71.97% in Samba, 71.80% in Jammu, 71.22% in Rajouri, 70.32% in Kishtwar, 67.39% in Ramban, 62.67% in Reasi and 61.23% in Kathua.
“The lowest turnout in Jammu division was in Udhampur district at 59.90%,” the SEC said.
Thirty four constituencies went to polls on Monday, 17 each in the Kashmir and the Jammu divisions. “A total of 36,4527 voters, including 19,5206 males and 16,9321 females voted,” Mr. Sharma said.