High voter turnout in LS polls reflects people’s anger against abrogation of Article 370: Mehbooba Mufti

JAMMU — People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti claimed on Monday that the high voter turnout in Kashmir in the fourth and fifth phases of polling for the ongoing Lok Sabha election is reflective of people’s anger against the BJP-led centre for abrogating Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcating the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into Union territories.

She said the voters, especially youngsters, want to convey a message to New Delhi through their ballots rather than using stones or guns.

On May 13, the Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency recorded about 38 per cent polling, the second highest in a few decades, while Baramulla on Monday recorded an all-time-high voter turnout of 59 per cent.

“People are angry (with this government) for the 2019 development. They firmly believe that we are living in a democracy and can convey our message through ballots that what was done in 2019 was not acceptable to us,” the former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister told reporters on the sidelines of a roadshow in Rajouri district.

Mufti, who is contesting the polls from the Anantnag-Rajouri constituency, said heavy polling was recorded in the valley in the 1987 Assembly election but those polls were rigged as a result of which people lost their faith in the electoral process.

In 2002, then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee assured the people of Kashmir about free-and-fair elections from the ramparts of the Red Fort, restoring their shaken faith to a large extent, she said.

“Today, the people, especially youngsters, are coming forward to vote, which means that they want to convey a message to New Delhi through ballots instead of pelting a stone or using a gun,” the PDP leader said.

Voting in Anantnag-Rajouri was slated for May 7 but was deferred to the sixth phase of the seven-phase election on May 25 on the request of some political parties owing to the closure of the Mughal road — an alternative link connecting Rajouri-Poonch in the Jammu region with south Kashmir’s Shopian district.

Mufti faces a stiff challenge from National Conference (NC) leader Mian Altaf, who has a large following among the Gujjar community, and Apni Party leader Zafar Iqbal Khan Manhas, who is backed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). There are 17 other candidates in the fray from the constituency.

“We are neither seeking votes in the name of community or blackmailing and threatening people. We are fighting the election on the slogan of unity among Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs,” the PDP leader said, thanking people for their support and love during her campaigning. — (PTI)