Questions Over Low Turnout Of Kashmiri Pandits In Srinagar Seat

A total 6,700 migrants voted in Delhi (213), Udhampur (160), and 6,327 in Jammu

New Delhi:

For the past five years, the BJP has been mobilising its workers in Kashmir valley and pushing for a “Naya Kashmir” narrative. But when people in the valley voted in the Lok Sabha elections in Srinagar, a low turnout of Kashmiri Pandits has raised questions.

“The BJP is not contesting on all the three seats in the valley. So who do we vote? Do we vote for parties who pushed us out of our homes?” one Kashmiri Pandit from Jagti camp told NDTV on phone.

According to him, Kashmiri Pandits have been loyal voters to the BJP. “We came to know in April only that they (BJP) are not contesting,” he added.

There are approximately 1.25 lakh voters for the three seats in Kashmir valley – Srinagar, Baramulla, and Anantnag and Poonch. A maximum number of these voters were expected to exercise their voting rights in Srinagar.

“Our number was huge. We could have made a significant change in the outcome,” another Kashmiri Pandit who lives in the Purkhoo camp said.

Earlier, eligible people had to fill a form ahead of voting. “We used to  submit this form to the  relief commissioners in the zonal office, but the Election Commission did away with this form this time and due to this there was lot of confusion,” another migrant to Kashmir who has been staying in Nagrota camp for over 10 years told NDTV.

“When we checked our lists, we found there are 53,000 registered voters in Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency. But due to the new system, our voting camps were not the same,” a Kashmiri Pandit in Muthi camp said. He said his voting booth was changed to Jagti camp.

The Jammu and Kashmir Election Commission’s data shows 17,140 Kashmiri migrants voted at 26 special polling stations in Jammu (21), Udhampur (1), and Delhi (4). The Centre based on this data said voter turnout at these special polling stations was 39.09 per cent.

A total 6,700 migrants voted in Delhi (213), Udhampur (160), and 6,327 in Jammu. But as per these migrants, going by registered votes, only 14 per cent managed to vote for the Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency.

Baramulla will vote on May 20. According to Kashmiri Pandits estimates, some 30,000 voters have been identified in this constituency. Now efforts are on to ensure more people turn out to vote.

“Special cells have been set up by the BJP. Dedicated office and staff have been asked to ensure maximum participation of Kashmiri migrant voters,” a BJP worker said.

Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is contesting for the first time from North Kashmir seat, while Sajad Lone of the People’s Conference is his opponent. The Opposition parties alleged that Mr Lone is a proxy candidate of BJP.

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