Low voter turnout

Kashmir witnessing a very low voter turnout in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections should serve as an eye opener for the politicians. People staying away from the polling booths have raised many questions. The biggest question is why have people lost faith in democratic system?  

Common people losing interest in elections should sent alarm bells ringing in the camps of all the parties as their existence is directly linked to the number of people who vote for them. If the politicians in Kashmir don’t put their acts together they could end up losing everything. Leader is the one who enjoys the support of people and if the masses don’t repose their trust in the person, who claims to be a leader, he ceases to exist. 

Politicians, whom people in Kashmir have voted for during all these years, have failed to live upto the expectations of the masses for one or other reason. Everyone wants to know what politicians have done for them at least during the past three decades? How come these leaders, who all along have claimed to represent the people, have amassed so much of wealth which is disproportionate to their sources of income.

According to the media reports voter turnout in as many as 90 polling stations in Srinagar Parliamentary constituency was zero. In the Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency no votes were cast at 65 polling booths. In Baramulla Lok Sabha constituency no votes were polled at 17 polling stations.

Politicians cannot blame New Delhi for the low polling percentage. It’s their “collective failure” and they should own the responsibility for it. Had the politicians remained in touch with the common people today situation in Kashmir would have been different. Prior to 2019 elections, people in large number used to come out to vote and choose their representatives. They used to defy boycott calls and militant threats to exercise their franchise.  But this time around they stayed away from polling booths despite separatists failing to enforce the boycott call due to the stern measures taken by the government. Nor were the militants allowed to threaten the people or disrupt the polling anywhere.  Despite government creating conducive atmosphere politicians couldn’t do much to pull people out of their homes on the polling days.    

The very low voter turnout in Kashmir has brought Mehbooba Mufti (PDP), Omar Abdullah (NC) and others at loggerheads. Omar Abdullah and others are holding the PDP and the BJP responsible for the prevailing situation in Kashmir and are claiming that people have lost interest in elections due to misgovernance. On the other hand, Mehbooba Mufti is reminding Dr Farooq and Omar Abdullah that Kashmir witnessed low voter turnout in the 1996 Lok Sabha and Assembly elections and at the same time she is alleging that the low voter turnout in Anantnag constituency is a “conspiracy against her.” The new entrants are tearing into Farooq Abdullah and holding the Abdullahs and Muftis squarely responsible for the prevailing volatile situation in the Valley.

It seems that the leaders are trying to hide behind excuses by blaming each other. Someone needs to ask them is the blame game which they are indulging in a solution?

These leaders have to cut across the party lines and tell the people in Kashmir that boycotting elections is no solution and if they continue to do so they (people) would be the biggest losers. They have to make the common masses understand that if they run way from the democratic set up it would add to their miseries.

Despite Kashmir witnessing low voter turnout in the parliamentary polls, National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah wants Election Commission of India to hold Assembly elections without any further delay. It looks like that Omar believes that people staying away from elections would help his party’s cause and National Conference would win enough seats to form the government in the state. He seems least bothered about the low polling percentage. His only aim seems to grab the power. Kashmiri leaders need to change their mindset. They should think why people don’t trust them anymore. If they don’t sit back and introspect elections in Kashmir would just turnout to be a mere formality and it would vindicate the stand of the separatists. Kashmiri leaders should not allow this.  They cannot just run away every time and blame separatists and militants for their failures. 

(The writer is a Former Journalist & Member of JK Youth Alliance)