Jammu’s Rajouri, Poonch vote in record numbers for Kashmir-based candidates

Jammu: Even as the twin districts of Rajouri and Poonch have been separated from Jammu Lok Sabha seat and made part of Anantnag constituency, this didn’t deter them from coming out in huge numbers and vote for new Kashmir based candidates.

Earlier when their votes were counted in Jammu and they used to come out in huge numbers to vote and this time their votes will be counted in Anantnag and still they exercised their franchise tremendously.

As per the data issued by the election commission of India, the voting percentage of the seven Assembly segments of Rajouri and Poonch districts were much higher than that of 11 Assembly segments of Anantnag, Kulgam and Shopian districts.

Thannamandi Assembly segment has recorded the highest voter turnout among all the 18 Assembly segments of Anantnag Lok Sabha seat with 69.35 percent followed by Surankote with 68.56 percent votes. Poonch Haveli Assembly segment stood at number three with 67.35 percent of votes followed by Rajouri with 67.09 percent, Nowhsera with 65.47 percent, Budhal with 64.91 percent and Mendhar with 64.69 percent.

In 2019, Surankote Assembly segment stood at number one with 77.40 percent voting followed by Nowshera with 72.70 percent. Other Assembly segments of Rajouri and Poonch were below 70 percent.

The only thing which differentiates the current election from the elections of 2019 is that the contest is between Kashmir oriented parties and in 2019 it was between the two national parties BJP and the Congress, who had fielded candidates from Jammu.

Some local experts believe that it is for the first time that votes of people of Rajouri and Poonch districts of Pir Panjal will be counted for and they also have a say in deciding who will win the parliamentary elections from their seat.

According to KNO Rajouri and Poonch districts used to be the part of Jammu Parliamentary seat till 2019 but after delimitation of Lok Sabha constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir, these two districts became part of Anantnag Lok Sabha seat.

Earlier, they had very less scope in deciding the fate of the candidates as mostly candidates from Jammu used to get a major chunk of votes from Jammu and Samba districts and votes of people of Rajouri and Poonch mattered only if they voted enmass to a particular candidate which never happened.

But this time, even if the two major communities, Gujjars and Paharis, vote differently, their votes still matter and there is a chance that they will become the deciding factor.

“Gujjars are voting for the candidate which is from their community and has a religious connection with him whereas Paharais are voting against Gujjars. The ethnic divide is visible and the contest has become interesting,” said Shahid Saleem Mir, a journalist and expert on Rajouri-Poonch politics.

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