As the election results are out Safwat Zargar scans thorough numbers to pick up the major upsets of 2014 elections in Kashmir
A National Conference bastion since decades in Ganderbal district proved to be a shocker this time for the former Union Minister for New and Renewable energy Dr Farooq Abdullah with Peoples Democratic Party leading a sweeping victory over this stronghold of NC. With 44 percent of voter turnout in 2009 parliamentary elections in Kangan, NC had received 16,386 out of the total 25,447 votes, which amounted to almost 64 per cent turnout in its favour. The overwhelmingly one-sided contest between NC patron Farooq Abdullah and PDP’s Shia cleric-cum-politician Iftikhar Hussain Ansari in 2009 with 10,082 votes had seen a massive popular support for the son of NC’s founding father Sheikh Abdullah.
In 2014, the steep decline of the voter turnout in the favour of NC came as a bolt from the blue with PDP’s Tariq Hamid Karra securing 21124 votes against the NC’s turnout of 17517 votes. The gap of 3607 votes in NC’s bastion paved the way for an engulfing PDP tide in the frontier assembly constituency of Kangan, a constituency once believed by many where NC doesn’t need any campaigning.
Being the home constituency of both Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and his father, didn’t bring any success to the National Conference’s duo in these parliamentary elections. Out of the total 12416 votes cast in the Sonwar assembly constituency on April 30, NC’s patron Farooq Abdullah only bagged 4094 votes, where as his close and most tough rival Tariq Hamid Karra of PDP got 7262 votes.
The assembly constituency had witnessed a close encounter in 2009 parliamentary elections also when NC had defeated PDP by a mere figure of 215 votes. This time, not only was that gap filled up by the PDP’s candidate but a win in the home constituency of NC’s old horses with a more than 3000 vote margin, culminated in the historic defeat of the party that has ruled Kashmir for most of its time.
The Sonwar constituency also recorded a figure of 260 votes polled in the favour of NOTA.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, Chrar-e-Sharif had overwhelmingly voted for the National Conference’s candidate Dr Farooq Abdullah, who received 26,536 votes out of the total 39,454 ballots cast. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) remained a distant second with 10,539 votes. However the trend was reverse this time, with PDP receiving 26870 votes against the NC’s figure of 23875 votes.
Considered to be one of the main strongholds of the National Conference since past few decades, the voter spin against the party led to a massive setback to the NC’s legacy in the Budgam district. Though, the gap in the votes between two parties was not much, but the penetration of PDP in the NC vote hubs is not an un-worrying factor for National Conference.
Out of the 53819 total votes cast, 826 voters had opted for NOTA option in Chrar-e-Sharief.
Speculated by many political pundits as an easy game for National Conference, the loss of Eidgah constituency in 2014 parliamentary elections gave a major setback to the National Conference.
With a winning margin of 1197 votes by Peoples Democratic Party over the NC’s voter turnout of 2334 votes, the loss came as a jolt against the seemingly confident takeover of this constituency in Srinagar bastion.
The earlier figures duly tell a picture of NC’s grip over this assembly segment with a clear and sweeping victory led by Farooq Abdullah against PDP’s Iftikhar Hussain Ansari in 2009. In 2009 parliamentary elections, the contest had been a one-sided affair with NC bagging 2661 votes out of total 4249 votes, where as Ansari lagged behind with 1239 votes. Out of the 6197 votes polled in Eidgah constituency in 2014 Lok Sabha elections, 113 voters had exercised the choice of NOTA.
Ladakh: Close Encounter
While the announcement of NOTA option by Election Commission of India in October last year had led to a short-lasting stir in the valley, the impact of NOTA factor on the political careers was more than visible in Ladakh Lok Sabha constituency and if figures are to be believed, decided the political fate of some candidates. As per the figures of final results, the BJP candidate Thupstan Chhewang defeated his closest rival and independent candidate Ghulam Raza by a mere figure of 36 votes, but the decisive factor was not the additional votes cast in the favour of Chhewang but 1207 votes cast in the favour of NOTA option.
On Friday when the focus of who has got the majority of votes in Lok Sabha constituencies of Kashmir region was dominating the news flow in valley, a close encounter was in progress in the Ladakh Lok Sabha constituency where the fate of two candidates –one independent and other from Bhartiya Janta Party – was hanging in balance till the final hours of counting.
According to the final figures, the BJP candidate had got 31111 votes in his favour while as the independent candidate had secured 31075 votes in his kitty.
Ladakh Lok Sabha constituency had witnessed more than 60 per cent voter turnout on May 7 in the final phase of Lok Sabha elections in Jammu and Kashmir. Four candidates –two independent candidates and one each from BJP and one from Congress – were in fray for the electoral battle in the frontier constituency of the state.
Taking an overview of the whole voting pattern in Ladakh, the voting figures revealed a picture of tough contest mostly between independent candidates and the candidates from Indian national parties. Whereas the Congress candidate Tsering Samphel was fourth in the voter turnout with 26402 votes, another independent candidate Syed Mohd Kazim was slightly ahead with 28234 votes bagging third position in the whole electorate cast in the region.
NOTA: Not An Option!
Amid the speculations of high voter turnout and the impact of poll boycott call by the separatists on the voting percentage in Kashmir valley, usually dominating the pre-poll fervour, the newly implemented option of NOTA (None of the above) by the Election Commission of India had caused a brief stir in the valley. But as soon as the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) unlocked the political destiny of candidates on Friday, the magnitude of usage of NOTA option revealed a significant amount of voters choosing neither of the candidates in the fray.
In some cases, the exercise of NOTA option by electorate was much more than the aggregate of the votes cast in the favour of little known candidates in the fray.
According to the final figures of election results in the state, 3155o people had chosen the option of NOTA in the whole election exercise of 2014.
The usage of NOTA option was highest in the Udhampur Lok Sabha Constituency where 10478 people had voted for NOTA. Jammu and Kashmir’s Udhampur constituency recorded a turnout of 69.08% on April 17 which was 24% higher than the 45.15% recorded in the previous Lok Sabha polls. Similarly, the Jammu constituency had the figure of 4382 voters in the favour of NOTA.
In the whole voter turnout of J&K, the NOTA option had a share of 0.9 per cent out of the total voter turnout; whereas the Aam Aadmi Party had only 0.2 per cent of vote share to its credit in the entire state.
In Kashmir region – Srinagar constituency had 4979 voters, Anantnag constituency 5936 voters and Baramulla constituency had 4568 voters opting for the NOTA. While as the Ladakh Lok Sabha constituency had 1207 voters in the favour of NOTA option.
In October 2013, the Election Commission of India had ordered the Chief Electoral Officers of all States and Union territories to provide for ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) option in electronic voting machines (EVMs) and ballot papers.
The idea behind the ballot option of NOTA (None of the Above), was to allow the voter to indicate disapproval of all of the candidates in a voting system. However, when the option was put before the public after its announcement, the idea of having the power to reject all the candidates in the battle generated a vibrant debate in the political and pro-freedom circles of the valley.
With some claiming that there was no different at all between voting and choosing NOTA, many mainstream politicians had feared that the extensive usage of NOTA option by Kashmiri may result in shameful figures for the politicians. While the majority of the Kashmiris had preferred the option of boycotting election in its entirety the percentage of usage of NOTA option by the electorate in this elections has added another dimension to the electoral politics in the valley.
The Known Unknowns
As the numbers started pouring in many surprises and shocks came along. While it was a clean wipeout for ruling NC and its collation partner Congress, it was equally embarrassing for small players who were out to try their luck. Contesting either as independents or as affiliates of the parties with little following in the valley, the electoral journey for them proved to be a messy affair. Ummer Rashied reports.
Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat, Aam Admi Party candidate from Srinagar-Budgam constituency polled only 3249 votes. Bhat, a former RTI activist who switched over from PDP to AAP to contest 2014 parliamentary elections ended up in four digits only.
Aga Syed Mohsin, who unsuccessfully contested 2008 Assembly Elections on a Congress ticket from Hazratbal constituency, decided to go solo after his party fought 2014 elections in collation with NC. Mohsin, who was banking on Shia votes, managed just 16047 votes.
Aga Mohsin is the uncle of NC cabinet minister Aga Ruhullah. A resident of Shariatabad Budgam, Mohsin is a well known Shia cleric with follower across Kashmir!
Despite its historic win across India BJP has failed to manage a decent total for its candidates in Kashmir valley. BJP’s Srinagar candidate Fayaz Ahmad Bhat, a resident of Devsar in Kulgam district could secure meager 2734 votes. Notably Fayaz was fielded as BJP candidate from Srinagar constituency after Arif Raja, another BJP activist declined to file his nomination papers from Srinagar on the last moment.
Rabia Altaf alias Rabia Baji contested the elections as an independent candidate from Srinagar seat. She secured a meager 864 votes. Baji is a post graduate in psychology from Delhi University. She heads an NGO All India Centre for Urban and Rural Development (AICURD) which is implementing the Prime Ministers scholarship program in the valley. Married to a Srinagar based Pashmina dealer, Mohammad Altaf, she converted to Islam at a young age of 22 in 1989.
BJP’s South Kashmir candidate Mushtaq Malik, a businessman by profession, who famously claimed that ‘Modi wave’ has extended to Kashmir managed to bag just 4720 votes.
There seems to be no takers for Aam Admi Party as its South Kashmir seat candidate Dr Tanvir Maqbool Dar, a medicine graduate from the Shangus secured just 3252 votes. Tanveer prior to the elections was actively involved in the social activities before AAP chose him for the electoral battle.
In South Kashmir a total of 5936 people pressed NOTA option; more than what BJP or AAP could manage on the individual level.
Ghulam Mohammad Mir, a resident of Handwara contested as a BJP candidate from Baramullah Lok Sabha seat. Mir, a law graduate from Jammu University was last year elevated as general secretary of the state’s BJP unit. However his performance is disconcerting for the party as he could secure just 6558 votes.
Forget AAP, there is a Gareeb Admi Party (GAP) too in Kashmir! Ayaz Ahmad Sofi, a middle pass businessman from Brar in Bandipora, who represented GAP for North Kashmir seat managed 4141 votes.
Interestingly 4568 people opted for NOTA option in North Kashmir; more than the number of votes bagged by GAP’s Sofi.