Counting Of Votes For Bypolls to Srinagar Lok Sabha Constituency Begins

The counting for the closely-watched Srinagar by-polls began this morning. When voting took place for the parliamentary seat for a second time on Thursday, only 2 per cent voters turned up, the lowest in the history of Jammu and Kashmir. Only 702 of 35,169 people voted.

There are nine candidates contesting for the seat, but it is a direct contest between former Chief Minister and National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah and the ruling People's Democratic Party's Nazir Ahmed Khan. Mr Abdullah, 79, had lost the seat to PDP's Tariq Hameed Karra in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The seat fell vacant after Mr Karra resigned from the PDP and the Lok Sabha - he eventually joined the Congress which entered in a pre-poll alliance with the National Conference.

The polling for Srinagar was marred with widespread violence. Eight people were killed in police firing and over a hundred were injured in clashes between protesters and security forces on the polling day on April 9, which saw a mere 7 per cent voter turnout.

Re-polling was held for 38 polling booths on Thursday which had seen most violence - but only 702 people turned up; in many booths, not a single vote was cast. Of the nine candidates for the Srinagar constituency, five had pulled out in protest because they wanted the re-polling to be delayed, alleging that the current unrest does not allow for a free and fair election.

After schools that were to be used as voting centres were set on fire, and hundreds of protestors marched into voting centres shouting anti-India slogans on Sunday, the election from Anantnag, near Srinagar, was delayed to May. Among those who had asked for that was Tassaduq Hussain Mufti, the brother of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who is her party's candidate from Anantnag.

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