Repolling at 38 polling booths in Budgam as part of the Srinagar byelection took place peacefully on Thursday, April 13. However, almost the entire purpose of the exercise was defeated because only 709 people — or 2.02 percent of voters, who were supposed to exercise their franchise on Thursday — turned out to cast their vote.
The situation in Jammu and Kashmir has been especially thorny in recent times, and the election Commission has had to postpone the Anantnag byelection in view of it — a move that angered the political Opposition no end. J&K Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Shantmanu told International Business Times, India, that more security during the Srinagar byelection could have led to a different outcome.
The Srinagar byelection took place on April 9, but clashes between protesters and the security forces across several parts of Budgam led to eight deaths. The voter turnout that day was a mere 6.5 percent. With Thursday's numbers, the total voter turnout in the Srinagar Assembly election now stands at 7.13 percent.
'EVMs damaged and stolen'
Shantmanu told IBTimes India over the phone that at least 20 out of the 38 polling booths where repolling took place had seen zero voter turnout. "However, that is not a rare occurrence in Jammu and Kashmir. Whenever an election takes place, 100-200 polling booths see zero voter turnout," he said.
What could be equally more disturbing is that the Chadoora polling booth in Budgam had 300 security personnel stationed there — close to 10 times the normal. Asked about this, Shantmanu told IBTimes India that this was done to protect the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), which he called "the symbol of our democracy."
He said: "We lost 33 EVMs — most were stolen, while some were damaged — on the day of polling in Srinagar on April 9." The J&K CEO went on to add: "The question you should be asking is why there was less deployment that day."