Decline in voter turnout in Kashmir after 'rigged election of 1987'

Greater Kashmir

Official Data Suggests Decrease From 68% In 1984 To 31% In 2009

Srinagar, Mar 30: Kashmir has witnessed a huge decrease in participation of people in the Lok Sabha elections following the 1987 Assembly polls that were allegedly rigged, official data has suggested. From a high of 68 percent in 1984 LS polls, the voter turnout stood at 31 percent during the last election in 2009.
1984 POLLS
In 1984, the voter turnout was 68 percent in Kashmir. During these elections, all major political forces in Kashmir stood behind the National Conference following toppling of the Farooq Abdullah-led government by Ghulam Muhammad Shah. In Baramulla constituency, the voter turnout was 61.09 percent while as it was 73.51 and 70.08 percent for Srinagar and Baramulla parliamentary segments respectively.
Riding on ‘sympathy wave’, all three seats in Kashmir were bagged by the National Conference candidates—Saifuddin Soz (Baramulla), Abdur Rashid Kabuli (Srinagar) and Akbar Jahan Begum (Anantnag)—with a huge margin. In Jammu, Udhampur and Ladakh segments, the voter turnout was four percent less than Kashmir.
1989 POLLS
The 1989 LS polls—the first election conducted after the ‘rigging’ of 1987 Assembly polls—witnessed the lowest-ever voter turnout. According to official figures, the polling stood at marginal 5 percent in Srinagar and Islamabad (Anantnag) segments.
Saifuddin Soz (who was then with NC) and PL Handoo (NC) were elected from Baramulla and Islamabad seats respectively. In Srinagar, the situation was such that no one, except the NC candidate Muhammad Shafi Bhat, had filed the nomination. Bhat was ‘declared elected unopposed’. Even in Udhampur LS segment which includes Chenab Valley, the voting percentage stood at minimal 39.45 percent.
In Ladakh and Jammu, the polling continued to be high.
The 10th Lok Sabha elections couldn’t be held in the State due to volatile situation.
1996 POLLS
The 1996 LS elections were marred by widespread reports of threats, intimidation and coercion. Even as the authorities maintained 43 percent polling took place, the claims remained questionable given the situation prevailing in Kashmir at that time. Though National Conference boycotted the polls, their space was filled by government-gunmen who contested the elections as independent candidates. Ghulam Rasool Kar (Congress) and Ghulam Muhammad (Congress) were elected from Baramulla and Srinagar seats respectively.
Surprisingly, Janta Dal candidate Muhammad Maqbool Dar won from south Kashmir’s Islamabad seat.
In Udhampur segment– where 40 candidates were contesting– 53. 29 percent voter turnout was recorded. In neighboring Jammu, 48.18 percent polling was recorded with 30 candidates in fray.
In 1998, when Omar Abdullah (NC) and Mufti Muhammad Sayeed (Congress) were elected from Srinagar and Islamabad (Anantnag) seats respectively, the official claims put the polling at 33 percent on three LS seats of Kashmir—the figure contested by separatists.
According to the Election Commission of India, the polling was 30.06 percent and 28.15 in Srinagar and Islamabad segments. In Baramulla, Saifuddin Soz of NC won and the segment recorded 41 percent polling.
This election was necessitated after Saifuddin Soz of National Conference, in defiance of the party whip, voted against the 13 month-old BJP-led coalition government during the confidence motion in Lok Sabha. In 1999, the voter turnout on three seats of Kashmir stood at 18 percent–much below the officially claimed turnout during the 1996 and 1998 LS elections.
Abdur Rashid Shaheen, Omar Abdullah and Ali Muhammad Naik—all from NC—emerged victorious in Kashmir. Prof. Saifuddin Soz, who was contesting as independent candidate after being expelled from NC, stood fourth in the election from Baramulla. In Jammu and Ladakh, the voting was on expected lines.
The first election during the PDP-Congress rule recorded 23 percent voting on three LS seats of Kashmir. In Baramulla where NC’s Abdur Rashid Shaheen trounced PDP’s Nizamuudin Bhat, 35 percent polling was recorded whereas in Srinagar and Islamabad seats 18.57 and 15.04 percent electors respectively participated in the elections.
From Srinagar Omar Abdullah was elected while Mehbooba Mufti made her maiden entry in the Parliament from Islamabad (Anantang) LS segment.
The last parliament election saw voter turnout of 31 percent.
Baramulla recorded 41.84 percent voting, Srinagar 25.55 percent and Islamabad 27.01 percent.
Shariffudin Shariq, Dr Farooq Abdullah and Dr. Mehboob Beg were elected as MPs from Baramulla, Srinagar and Islamabad (Anantnag) segments.
A Kashmir–based political analyst said “you cannot have normal voter turnout in abnormal situations.”
“There has been significant rise in voter turnout over the past decade in LS elections, but it is far from satisfactory,” he said, adding, “The election boycott call of separatists also has the takers.”
Jammu-based political expert, Prof. Rekha Choudhary, said that nobody can deny the fact that there has been less voter turnout in the Parliament polls post-87.
She said, “The separatism and the election boycott call are among the major factors responsible for the low voter turnout during the parliament polls. Besides, people don’t relate themselves with Parliament elections but in Assembly elections they come out to vote for redressal of governance related grievances.”