Proving guesses wrong, Kashmiris voted for good governance

November 18th, 2008 - 5:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Srinagar, Nov 18 (IANS) Life was normal across the Kashmir Valley Tuesday, a day after large participation of voters in the first phase of the staggered assembly polls left political pundits and many Kashmiris surprised. At least 64 percent of electorate exercised their franchise Monday despite boycott and shutdown calls by separatist leaders.

They rejected the boycott appeal and voted for civic amenities — jobs, better roads, electricity and healthcare — the daily needs which cannot wait till the larger Kashmir isssue is resolved, say analysts here.

The high turnout comes after months of pro-separatist violent demonstrations earlier this year in which 50 people were killed, mostly in police and paramilitary firing.

The demonstrations in June, July and August were fuelled by bitter Amarnath land row that nearly created a communal divide between Muslim-majortity Kashmir valley and Hindu-dominated Jammu region.

Much to the shock of separatist leaders, many of them jailed in the run up to the polls, the high voting percentage has proven many political pundits and analysts wrong who had predicted a low turn out in Bandipora and Sonawari constituencies, which polled Monday.

Although the separatist leaders like Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, the chairman of his faction of the Hurriyat Conference, said Monday’s polling “was held under the shadow of the gun” many people here don’t buy the argument.

“The fact is that a good number of people came to vote and there was no coercion from any quarter,” said Mehraj-ud-din, 28, a voter from the Sonawari constituency.

The administration as also the mainstream politicians are seeing the huge participation in the poll process as rejection of the separatist poll boycott campaign by Kashmiris.

“It was a victory for democracy. We salute the people,” said Abdul Rahim Rather, senior leader of the National Conference here.

Even Mehbooba Mufti, the president of the Peoples Democratic Party was almost taken by surprise by the voter turnout.

“I have said the situation was not conducive for elections, but after seeing the voter turnout, I hope things would improve during the next six phases of the seven phase elections in the valley,” Mufti said.

The administration has been patting itself because the poll process was almost incident free.

“Except for a minor anti-poll protest in the Bandipora town which was tackled well, the entire poll process and the people’s mood to participate in the elections has been absolutely encouraging,” said state police chief Kuldeep Khoda.

Analysts here believe basic day to day things have taken priority over all other issues in the valley.

“Unemployment, poor roads, and lack of electricity, poor healthcare facilities and other issues those concern us cannot wait because the Kashmir dispute remains unresolved,” said Bashir Manzar, editor of an English daily here.

“Vote is for good governance and for attendance to daily problems faced by the people. The voter turnout must be seen in that perspective,” said Manzar.

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