LS Polls: Will winds of change break shackles of boycott history in Kashmir?


Ali Asad

Srinagar, May 10 : As the stage is set for massive showdown for three crucial Lok Sabha seats of Kashmir commencing from May 13 from Srinagar Parliamentary seat, the parties in fray are expecting record turnout in absence of boycott call and no fear of any sort of violence this time around. The political parties admit that stone pelting has come to all time low while as street violence has almost vanished stating that this factor should help break the shackles of boycott and lure large number of voters to the polling booths.

This will be first Lok Sabha election post abrogation of Article 370 roll back and there is no intervention from the separatists. The 2019 Lok Sabha elections in Kashmir witnessed notably low participation with Baramulla, Srinagar and Anantnag recording the lowest turnouts in comparison to the preceding three elections. In response, the election office in Kashmir has initiated awareness campaigns to encourage higher voter participation, leveraging the altered environment post the abrogation of Article 370.

Figures accessed by the news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO) about the ten districts in Kashmir reveal that consistently low turnout was recorded particularly in South Kashmir. Conversely, districts bordering Pakistan, such as Kupwara, Bandipora, and Baramulla, have shown relatively higher voter engagement. Since 1990, elections in the region have been overshadowed by terrorist activities and Pakistan-sponsored disruptions, leading to widespread election boycotts. The persistent threat of violence and calls for boycott by separatists and terrorist groups have historically deterred voter turnout.

However, experts now observe a shift in the situation, marked by a cessation of separatist activities and a decline in incidents like stone-pelting. With intensified crackdowns on terrorist organizations and separatist parties, there has been a notable absence of calls for election boycotts. This newfound peace has fostered a conducive atmosphere for increased voter participation. This prompted the administration to undertake comprehensive efforts across all districts. Various initiatives, including awareness drives, sports competitions, and community engagements, are being implemented to mobilize voters and ensure a robust turnout.

Political analysts interpret the upcoming elections as an opportunity for Kashmiris to express dissent against the decisions of the Central Government, particularly the actions taken since 2019. PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti and NC chief Omar Abdullah have been vocal in urging voters to use their ballots to oppose government policies.

Srinagar has consistently recorded low voter turnouts. This emerges as a challenge in mobilizing voters in these regions. However, concerted efforts are underway to raise awareness among the populace, including students and the general public, through various outreach programs and awareness campaigns.

With a peaceful atmosphere prevailing across Kashmir and renewed efforts to engage voters, optimism is high for a significant increase in voter turnout and the possibility of setting new records in the upcoming elections. Parties in fray that include National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party and Apni Party are hopeful of huge turnout in Srinagar constituency on May 13 followed by North Kashmir on May 19 and South Kashmir on May 25.

“Yes, indeed there is a change in air. We expect a large number of voters to come out on May 13 in all three Lok Sabha constituencies of Kashmir. It’s the people who have decided the fate of candidates in fray. This time, all eyes are on the voting percentage,” said a senior Apni Party leader.

Leaders from National Conference and PDP are also banking on the huge voter percentage this time around. “This time, there is no boycott factor and people should vote for the candidate who can raise their voice in the Parliament. We are glad to see people participating in our rallies in downtown and villages of Pulwama and Bramulla where boycott always prevailed whenever there were polls,” said Waheed ur Rehman Para, PDP’s candidate for Srinagar parliamentary seat–

A senior NC leader admitted that stone pelting has declined and street protests have vanished but added that ‘security challenges’ have gone up on other fronts. “Polling dates will decide the real change on ground. Let people reach polling booths on May 13, May 19 and May 25,” he said—(KNO)

District-wise Voting Percentage in past Lok Sabha Elections:

District 2004 2009 2014

Kupwara 40.08% 53.94% 62.54%

Baramulla 30.60% 32.47% 24.71%

Bandipora 40.46% 45.40% 35.24%

Ganderbal 44.66% 37.62% 43.75%

Srinagar 5.20% 12.05% 10.71%

Budgam 36.88% 40.77% 40.08%

Pulwama 6.67% 10.49% 7.66%

Shopian 14.68% 18.83% 22.31%

Anantnag 16.24% 36.08% 39.37%

Kulgam 19.63% 34.11% 36.35%

Lok Sabha-wise Voting Percentage:

Lok Sabha 2004 2009 2014 2019

Baramulla 35.65% 41.84% 39.13% 34.89%

Srinagar 18.57% 25.55% 25.86% 14.43%

Anantnag 15.04% 27.10% 28.84% 8.96%


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