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HindustanTimes Fri,19 Sep 2014

Militancy has impacted voter turnout in Kashmir: Omar Abdullah

Toufiq Rashid, Hindustan Times  Srinagar, April 26, 2014
First Published: 01:41 IST(26/4/2014) | Last Updated: 01:45 IST(26/4/2014)

Violence in Jammu and Kashmir — particularly the killing of sarpanches earlier this month — appears to have impacted the turnout in Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency on Thursday with Pulwama district recording just 6.32%. But chief minister Omar Abdullah says this has been the trend since the onset of militancy in the state while promising to ensure safety at the grassroots level once the model code of conduct is lifted.

Excerpts from an interview:

Why was the voter turnout low in Anantnag?
Whether we like it or not, voter turnout in the Lok Sabha elections has been low since the onset of militancy in Kashmir. It has rather improved by 1% in Anantnag, which had recorded a turnout of 27% in 2009. It is low compared to the rest of the country but Kashmir usually votes better in assembly elections and quite high in panchayat polls.
 
Is the National Conference likely to gain from the low turnout, as rivals say?
Although our opposition is saying low voter turnout favours us but (People’s Democratic Party chief) Mehbooba Mufti should remember she won the Anantnag seat with only 15% voting in 2004. Yes, it could have been better had Pulwama voted.
 
Will the low voting impact the remaining three seats (Baramulla, Srinagar and Ladakh)?
Let’s see. All I can do is appeal to people to come out to vote no matter who they vote for. If they want accountability, they have to come out.
 
How do you view the  security scenario after the killing of three panchayat representatives?
Killing of panchayat representatives happened in the past. The best way to improve security is through area domination but the election code of conduct has prevented me from being involved with security-related matters.
 
BJP leader Giriraj Singh said Modi critics should go to Pakistan. Will you?
If there is no place in India for critics of Narendra Modi what choice is one left with? I will always keep opposing him.


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