Tag Archives: Indian Elections

Just 7.14% polling in Srinagar seat—lowest-ever in 5 decades

12 Apr

Srinagar, Publish Date: Apr 10 2017 12:33AM 

Just 7.14% polling in Srinagar seat—lowest-ever in 5 decades

Amid large-scale protests and clashes, the high-profile Srinagar parliamentary segment that went to polls on Sunday recorded the lowest-ever voter turnout, with the Election Commission of India authorities putting the overall polling percentage at 7.14, considered to be worst in five decades. Regarding the killings by forces, the CEO said “it was not a good day for all of us.”

Addressing a news conference here, J&K’s Chief Electoral Officer Shantamanu said nearly 7.14 percent polling was recorded in the segment for which the by-election was necessitated following the resignation of Tariq Hamid Karra. Karra had resigned on October 17 last year over “naked brutalities” inflicted on the people by the Government during the people’s uprising triggered by the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8.

Giving break-up of votes polled, the CEO said 90050 votes were polled during the day-long exercise that was marked by killing of youth by forces.

The segment spread over Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal districts has 12.61 lakh voters.

He said 24574 votes were polled in eight assembly segments of Srinagar district with Hazratbal recording 3483 votes, Zadibal 3280, Eidgah 383, Khanyar 2587, Habba Kadal 2058, Amira Kadal 3331, Sonwar 4777 and Batamaloo 4675.

 Similarly, he said, in five assembly segments of Budgam district, a total of 40288 votes were cast with Chadoora recording 602, Budgam 13276, Beerwah 13625, Khan Sahab 9492 and Chrar-e-Sharief 3293 votes.

In two assembly segments of Ganderbal district, a total of 24217 votes were polled that included 15199 in Kangan and 9018 in Ganderbal assembly segments, the CEO disclosed.

He said 3.84 percent polling was recorded in Srinagar, 8.82 percent in Budgam and 14.71 percent in Ganderbal districts.

“Kangan assembly segment in Ganderbal district recorded highest voter turnout of 15199, while lowest polling of 383 votes was recorded in Eidgah assembly segment,” he said.

Shantamanu also said 971 votes were also polled at the three migrant polling centres set- up at Jammu, Udhampur and New Delhi.

The Sunday’s voter turnout was the lowest-ever in the segment since elections were held for its first time in 1967.

The previous lowest voter turnout in the segment was 11.93% during the 1999 LS elections.

According to the Election Commission of India figures with Greater Kashmir, the voter turnout on the seat was 37.25 percent in 1967, 58.88 % in 1971, 69.12 % in 1977, 73.51 % in 1984, 40.94 % in 1996, 30.6% in 1998, 11.93 % in 1999, 18.57 % in 2004, 25.55% in 2009 and 25.86 % in 2014.

During the 1996 Lok Sabha election, there were massive allegations that forces and ‘Ikhawanis’ (government gunmen) coerced the people to vote and the voter turnout was inflated.

During 1980 and 1989 LS polls, Farooq Abdullah and Muhammad Shafi Bhat were respectively elected unopposed from the segment, while the 1991 LS polls could not be held in J&K due to outbreak of armed militancy.

Shantamanu, who was flanked by IGP Kashmir SJM Gilani, said the voter turnout today was much less than previous LS election when 26 percent polling percentage was recorded.

This implies that voter turnout this time was 19 percent less than previous LS elections.

The CEO said more than 200 incidents of violence were reported in the segment particularly in Central Kashmir’s Budgam district, on Sunday.

“There were more than 200 incidents of stone-pelting and petrol bomb attacks. The protesters also set ablaze a polling booth and also some SRTC and private vehicles,” he said.

He said they closed polling booths in some areas after protesters tried to set them ablaze.

“The EVMs were also damaged in the process but we got them back. After receiving presiding officers’ dairies, a team comprising election observer, returning officer and presiding officer would examine all such cases and decide on what needs to be done in the cases where polling was affected,” he asked.

Asked about the number of stations where polling was affected, the CEO said the number may be 50, 100 or 150.

“I cannot give you the exact number. But I can say the number could be around 50, 100 or 150,” he said.

The CEO described the election for Anantnag parliamentary segment as a major challenge.

“I think it is a bigger challenge and we will face it. We are making preparations in this regard,” he said.

The Anantnag parliamentary segment is going to polls on April 12.

According to observers, today’s voter turnout is a matter of concern for both the ruling PDP and the opposition National Conference.

“It is definitely a set-back for mainstream parties in Kashmir,” they said.

At present, the combined strength of legislators from Central Kashmir’s three districts is 17—14 MLAs and three MLCs.

Meanwhile, J&K Government described the today’s voter turnout as “depressing”.

“It would have been preferable to lose through a heavy turnout of votes rather than win through a boycotted election,” said senior PDP leader, Naeem Akther.

Asked whether 2016 uprising was responsible for the low voter turnout, Akther said the low percentage was due to many factors.

“It is depressing that we should stay away from democratic process, although it has been established that there is no other recipe of problems except democracy. We have to de-radicalize our approach to problems,” he said.

Akther, who is Minister for R&B, also blamed Farooq Abdullah for today’s violence.

“It is unfortunate that one of the candidates (Dr Farooq Abdullah) also tried to glorify stone pelting and protests against the country for whose Parliament he is contesting the elections. This dichotomy of approach has also contributed to very sad course of events today,” he said.

At the time of addressing the presser, Shantamanu said six civilians were killed and 17 injured in poll-related violence in Central Kashmir’s parliamentary segment.

He said six deaths were caused due to firing and other similar incidents.

“More than 100 police and paramilitary personnel were also injured in the violence,” he said



Indian Elections and the Muslim Factor

2 Apr

Momin Iftikhar

The elections for the 15th Lok Sabha in India are at hand and as the billion plus public gears up to go to hustings, the Indian Muslims are only prominent on the tumultuous scene through their conspicuous absence.

In a changing political scenario in which the mainstream parties (Indian National Congress, Bhartya Janata Party) are loosing their clout to an empowerment of regional players (Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party, Rashtrya Janata Dal etc), it is disconcerting that despite constituting a solid 14% chunk of the Indian population, Muslims as a community appear comatose, confused and directionless.

The most striking aspect is the absence of a unifying strategy seeking to uplift the community from the social morass and squalor that it finds itself in. It is a reason for major concern that Muslims in India neither have a leader to represent them nor a party of their own to articulate their aspirations. It is a measure of the prevailing drift that Muslims remain outside of the core constituency of any mainstream or regional party in India; leaving them at the mercy of political mavericks who are ruthlessly exploiting them for realizing partisan agendas, more often than not at unbearable cost to their interest.

Having been disillusioned by the supposedly secularist Congress Party and bruised and battered by the BJP, the Muslims in India find themselves at the mercy of exploitative regional parties whose interest in their welfare barely extends beyond a malicious purloining of votes. It is ironic that instead of producing and supporting a leader from among their own ranks, Muslims in India are turning to the likes of Lalu Prasad Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadev and Mayavati for political leadership and emancipation. The situation need not have been so dismal. Notwithstanding that the Indian state and the political process tends to leave them outside the mainstream of politics yet in term of numbers, which determine the thrust of matters in a democracy, Muslim presence in India is in no way insignificant. Their clout, if suitably exploited, becomes particularly potent in a scenario whereby the major political parties are shrinking in influence and the regional parties are becoming ascendant. It is a measure of their latent potential that in at least 140 constituencies where they constitute more than 20% (including 14 constituencies where they are in majority and 28 other where they are above 30%), all political parties, including the BJP, are bending backwards to woo Muslim votes.

The formation of the Central Government in India largely depends upon the number of seats secured by political parties in Bihar and UP and in both states the Muslim constituencies can play a major role in deciding who reaches the pinnacle of political power in India. It is a different matter though that the supposed friends of Muslims, boasting claims of their leadership, are playing games with them. In Bihar, during 15 year’s rule of Lalu Prasad Yadav, the Muslims have suffered the maximum, particularly on the education front. Lalu never cared to implement reforms that would benefit Muslim; only administering to the interests of his own clan of Yadavs. Once asked as to why there was no Muslim in the top leadership of his Rashtrya Janatadal Party, Lalu replied jokingly that he himself was the leader of the Muslims of Bihar.

Situation is no different in UP, where the Muslim votes have been instrumental in the rise of Bahujan Samaj Party’s Mayawati , who after winning the UP state elections a year ago, appointed only one Muslim minister and that too in the insignificant department of environments. In another unkind cut she ordered the abandoning of construction of the Mohammad Ali Johar Minority University in Rampur that was much needed in spreading the light of education among Muslim youngsters who presently lack badly in this vital field. As for Mulayam Singh Yadav, claiming to be the rock solid friend of Muslims of UP, in the run up to the elections, has taken into his party’s folds Kalyan Singh, who during his stint as the Chief Minister of UP was instrumental in demolition of Babri Mosque on 6 December 1992.

It doesn’t require exceptional political acumen to identify the well known Muslim grievances that have reduced a significant community to the level of the proverbial slumdogs. The Sachar Committee report starkly outlines the despicable conditions of the Indian Muslims who are sliding miserably on account of all socio – economic indicators. It also exposes a state sponsored culture of institutionalized insensitivity that has seen Muslims in India descending to the bottom of the pit, even below the scheduled castes(SC) / tribes (ST) and other backward classes (OBC) whose sponsorship by the Government is facilitating these neglected communities’ upward social mobility.

The absence of a political clout to voice the concern of the Muslim community over racial profiling, that has made the Muslim youth a target of police and agencies, is another area that requires immediate emphasis. Muslim community also needs to underscore the need for implementing recommendations made by the Mishra Commission to provide 15% reservations for the minorities in the government jobs, provision of higher education opportunities, developmental benefits and availability of credit flow with 10% assured quota for Muslims. These recommendations are pertinent but in a joint electorate system where Muslims political and economic interests are totally overshadowed, given the obtaining state of affairs, hold no promise. Unless Muslims acquire a voice in the political system of India and secure dedicated quotas, guaranteed by legislative guarantees, there can be no empowerment of the community enabling them to benefit from the high pace of economical growth so proudly brandished by the Indian leaders and economists.

Muslims exclusion in Indian politics, irrespective of who takes the reins of the government, seems to have made the community resigned to a life of second rate citizens in perpetuity. It is instructive to note that in dealing with Muslims’ welfare and matters of advancement, the secular Congress Party has not been much different to BJP once their performance is viewed even superficially. In violation of its manifesto and charter, UPA in direct political competition with BJP, tried to sidetrack the Muslim community’s interests in a bid to vie for the Hindu votes. Congress made its lack of concern for the Muslim welfare glaringly obvious once it trashed the recommendations made by Sachar commission, refusing to even table it in the Parliament. Congress led UPA even refused to acknowledge the constitutional and legal recommendations made by the Mishra Commission in the wake of the Sachar findings. The reason behind this inertia is the stark realization that any relief to the Muslims is cross grained to the run of the democracy practiced in India where Muslims are destined to remain eternal losers under the crippling weight of a strident Hindu majority.