Amid Boycott, Voting Scarce Across Mehbooba’s Anantnag

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Srinagar: Most of the people in the Anantnag assembly segment preferred to stay indoors on Wednesday after militants and separatists had forbidded them not to turn up to cast their vote. 

However, burqa-clad women outnumbered men in this historic town in exercising their franchise. 

The polling ended peacefully with 33.84 per cent votes cast, less than the last time in 2014. “Polling ended peacefully in Anantnag assembly constituency, 33.84 per cent voter turnout was recorded against 40 per cent during the 2014 general elections,” the state’s Chief Electoral Officer Shantmanu said here, adding that in both the urban and rural segments, women voters outnumbered men. 

There were 117 polling stations in the constituency and 13 polling stations were set up outside the constituency for migrant voters. Voting started at 7 a.m., with fewer people lining up outside polling stations. A mere four per cent turnout was recorded during the first one hour. But the morning’s shy trickle of voters gradually changed into small queues in rural areas even as the turnout in urban areas was still very low. In Khanabal High School near Anantnag town, where two polling centres were set up, burqa-clad women formed the bulk of voters.

Police and paramilitary forces were deployed in strength to prevent any untoward. The army was also deployed in what was known as “area domination” duty in the periphery of the constituency to ensure an incident-free poll. There was a complete shutdown in Anantnag town. Wednesday was declared a public holiday in the constituency. Traffic on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway, which passes through this town, moved normally. Movement of vehicles carrying tourists to the Pahalgam health resort was also normal. Mehbooba Mufti visited a number of polling stations. But she refused to speak to the media, at Rambirpora village, where journalists sought her comments, she said: “I will speak to you when I have something to say.” There are seven other candidates in the fray, including Hilal Ahmad Shah of the Congress and Iftikhar Hussain Misgar of the National Conference. “Counting of votes will start at 8 a.m. at Degree College Anantnag on June 25”, Shantmanu told reporters. Speaking to IANS after voting, few people aired doubts about Mehbooba Mufti’s victory. “We know she will not solve international issues but will definitely address unemployment, education, healthcare and give us better roads, and she will also empower women,” said Shafeeqa Begum, 45. Shafeeqa, however, believes — like many others — that a narrow victory margin could dent her image as a popular chief minister whose party has its base and is dominant in the south Kashmir districts of Anantnag, Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam. The Muftis belong to the neighbouring Bijbehara town.

Octogenarian separatist leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani had termed the polling as ‘haram’ with the Hizbul Mujahideen outfit issuing stringent warning on poll participation. 

 

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