Peaceful election in J&K significant

The polling day in Jammu & Kashmir, particularly in the valley, sent out several positive signals. First, unlike in the past, there were no election boycott calls from militant groups, nor was there any attempt to disrupt voting. Second, there was a heartening voter turnout of 38 percent in Srinagar, a massive jump from 14.4 percent in the 2019 elections. Third, the peaceful atmosphere allowed a large number of enthusiastic voters to queue up at the polling booths in the region to exercise their franchise. All these indicate a significant step towards democratic renewal in the region after the abrogation of Article 370 and the reorganisation of Jammu & Kashmir in 2019. The incident-free voting signals public faith in the electoral process. This is despite considerable anger over the Centre’s decision to convert the state into a union territory. There is a growing desire among the people to actively engage in shaping their future.

The impressive voter turnout this time assumes significance when seen against the backdrop of a steadily declining poll percentage in Srinagar since 1996, when the first elections were held in the region, following the beginning of the insurgency. It was just 14.4 percent in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, 25.8 percent in 2014, 25.5 percent in 2009 and 18.5 percent in 2004. No untoward incident was recorded from any of the 2,135 polling stations of the Srinagar constituency spread across five districts. The successful conduct of elections should now serve as a catalyst for the restoration of statehood, as promised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his poll rally in Udhampur last month. All stakeholders in the region must seize the momentum and work towards building a more inclusive and representative governance framework that addresses people’s aspirations.