Valley turnout surprise
Nearly two in every three voters turned up at the booths in the panchayat elections in Kashmir on Saturday, the surprise 64.5 per cent count for the first phase coming after last month’s dismal participation in urban body polls.
The turnout in the first of the nine phases in the whole state was even more impressive at 74.1 per cent, helped by a 79.5 per cent turnout in the Jammu division.
Officials said the rural belts of the border district of Kupwara clocked the highest turnout in the Valley at 71.9 per cent, followed by Baramulla (69.1), Bandipore (55.7), Budgam (30.1) and Srinagar (21.8). Ganderbal recorded the lowest turnout at 11.9 per cent. An official said 1.05 lakh out of 1.63 lakh voters voted in the Kashmir division. Around 2.35 lakh people out of 2.95 lakh voted in the Jammu division.
Last month’s urban body polls saw a 5 per cent turnout in the Valley, with an abysmal 2 per cent in Srinagar city.
None of the districts of South Kashmir, which remains a trouble spot, voted on Saturday. The turnout, though, is a face-saver for the governor Satya Pal Malik-led administration as well as the Centre. While separatists have called for a boycott of the polls, key regional players like the National Conference and the PDP have stayed away after failing to get a commitment from the Centre that it would safeguard the state’s special status.
Unlike urban body polls, panchayat polls are fought on a non-party basis.
A big factor for Saturday’s turnout was Kupwara, the stronghold of separatist-turned-BJP ally Sajjad Lone whose Peoples Conference is participating in these polls.