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High voter turnout shows resolve of Kashmiris to oust BJP govt.: Ex- Bureaucrat

By Press TV Website Staff

The significantly high voter turnout in Indian-administered Kashmir in Monday’s general election that will determine who takes the helm in New Delhi is indicative of the determination of Kashmiris to oust the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre, says a former Indian bureaucrat.

Wajahat Habibullah, the former Chief Information Commissioner of India who also served as the Chairperson of India’s National Commission for Minorities, made these remarks in an interview with the Press TV website on Tuesday, a day after 38 percent voter turnout was recorded for the redrawn Srinagar parliamentary constituency in the fourth phase of India’s 18th general election.

It represented the highest voter participation in the key parliamentary constituency of Indian-administered Kashmir since 1996 when 41 percent of polling was recorded.

“This turnout is indicative of the determination of Kashmiris to oust the BJP government at the Centre. Although the trends favor the NC (National Conference party), this is not necessarily a resurgence of that party, but a bid to rally behind it to defeat the ruling party at the Centre,” Habibullah said.

Importantly, Monday’s voting came almost five years after the Narendra Modi-led BJP government in New Delhi revoked the Himalayan region’s special status under the Indian Constitution in a move that was widely criticized by local Kashmiri political parties.

The two main rivals for the Srinagar constituency – influential Shia leader and former minister Aga Syed Ruhullah Mehdi representing the National Conference and youth president of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Waheed Parra – aggressively campaigned against the BJP’s policies toward Kashmir.

The former high-profile Indian bureaucrat said it is “only the consolidation of antagonism to the BJP,” the party he said is “responsible for the abrogation of Article 370.”

“It will be recalled that earlier both leading parties of J&K (NC and PDP) had been willing to work with the BJP. The last elected government was a BJP-PDP combine. Today, even its supposed allies like Sajjad Lone's PC (Peoples Conference) have to distance themselves before any appeal the public,” Habibullah said in a conversation with the Press TV website.

Pertinently, India’s Supreme Court in a controversial move in August 2019 decided to revoke special status for Indian-administered Kashmir, which bestowed it semi-autonomy.

The decision to abrogate Article 370, which granted special status to the Himalayan region, was one of the key poll promises of the ruling party in New Delhi led by Modi.

BJP opted out of elections in the Kashmir valley with senior party leader and India’s Home Minister Amit Shah saying the lotus bloom in Kashmir can wait. His statement didn’t go well with Kashmiri leaders.

Habibullah, who served as the top Indian bureaucrat in Kashmir in the early 1990s when anti-India insurgency was at its peak, said the BJP has “no takers” in Srinagar, the summer capital of the Indian-administered Kashmir.

“Let alone support for the BJP, even association with that party has no takers in Srinagar. I was in the (Kashmir) Valley in the first week of May, staying home in Srinagar, including downtown, and Sopore. Hostility to the BJP is outright and universal,” he told the Press TV website.

He said different segments of the region's political firmament are "united against the BJP."

"What it says is that although violence has indeed abated, the reasons for this are not to be found in any sense of satisfaction amongst the people, but instead an increased alienation."

The general election in India commenced on April 19, and the voting process will continue in seven phases until June 1. The counting of votes is scheduled to take place on June 4.

One of the three parliamentary seats in the Himalayan region of Kashmir, Srinagar is among the 96 seats across the country that voted in the fourth phase of the election for the Indian parliament.

In the next two phases, elections will be held for the constituency of northern Baramulla district on May 20 and for the constituency of southern Anantnag-Rajouri on May 25 respectively.

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