Srinagar, April 13: Only 709 of the 35,169 electorate voted on Thursday during re-polling in the Srinagar-Budgam Lok Sabha constituency where widespread violence on Sunday left eight people dead.
Barely two per cent of the people voted in the 38 polling stations of Budgam district where re-polling had been ordered, an Election Commission official told IANS.
This is the lowest voting ever in Jammu and Kashmir, where a separatist campaign raging since 1989 — for which India blames Pakistan — has claimed thousands of lives.
Despite the deployment of some 20,000 security personnel, including paramilitary forces, few men and women ventured out of their homes to vote in the contest between National Conference President Farooq Abdullah and Nazir Ahmad Khan of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Dozens of mobile bunker vehicles provided additional support to the security forces. Budgam district had almost 40 security personnel to guard each person who voted.
Unlike during the Lok Sabha and assembly polls of 2014, the roads were mostly deserted on Thursday. Vehicles too went off the roads and the few pedestrians and motorists were checked at random by security forces.
In as many as 18 polling stations, not a single voter turned up. In four others, only one vote each was cast. But unlike Sunday, there was no violence, barring one incident of stone pelting by youths at Nasrullahpora, a Shia-majority area about 30 km from Srinagar.
The Congress, which is backing Farooq Abdullah, blamed the Jammu and Kashmir government and the Election Commission for the miserable turnout of voters.
Nazir Ahmed, a voter in Chadoora in Budgam, said he voted despite separatist calls for an election boycott “because it is important to keep the RSS out” of power.
The obvious reference was to the PDP, which rules Jammu and Kashmir along with the RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
A young man who did not vote said he stayed away because he and his friends were “very angry” with the PDP “over the way it has behaved with us”.
A former National Conference minister, Nasir Sogami, said of the poor voting: “It is the failure of the state government which has shrunk the space for mainstream politics in Kashmir. The poor voting also shows ordinary people are not interested in mainstream politics.”
The balloting began on a slow note — and remained so through the day. Just over 400 votes had been cast in four hours, this number crawling to 519 in six hours.
By the time the polling stations closed, the number of total voters was put at 709.
Separatists had called for a boycott of both Lok Sabha by-elections: the one held on Sunday in Srinagar-Budgam, leading to re-polling on Thursday, and in Anantnag, where by-election has been postponed from April 12 to May 25 following Sunday’s violence.
Only seven per cent of the electorate voted on Sunday in the Srinagar bypoll.