In a vibrant democracy like India, low voter turnout becomes a cause of worry. Whereas in some cases low voter turnout in India can be due to reasons such as sheer laziness or voter apathy among the electorate, in Jammu and Kashmir low voter turnout is additionally and more seriously interpreted as a rejection of India altogether, where the vote and the process of voting become a tool of negotiation for the voter and candidates with India, an enemy. On the other hand, high voter turnout is interpreted as acceptance of India over freedom slogans, separatist elements and Pakistan.
With the 17th Lok Sabha elections in 2019 around the corner, it is important to get the statistics correct first and present them in a way that isn’t misleading before making the interpretations. Here are some more statistics compiled from publicly available Election Commission of India data which show that the lowest voter turnout percentages in India are from Jammu and Kashmir:
What makes low voter turnout percentages a cause for worry is not how low the voter turnout is but rather how low the figures are in relation to the national average as well as what the difference is between the lowest and highest values in consideration are.
In Jammu and Kashmir, as the above points show, the state average for Jammu and Kashmir is the lowest in India as well as being significantly lower. Further, within Jammu and Kashmir, there is significant difference between the lowest and highest figures. The difference between the highest and lowest can range from as high as 81% between parliamentary constituencies in the same election to a difference of 61% within the same constituency over the years, that is in 1989 and Srinagar respectively.
But one trend to note is that since 1999, although Jammu and Kashmir has remained the state with the lowest voter turnout in India and the only state failing to break the 50% mark, there has been an upward average voter turnout trend from 32.3% in 1999 to 49.7% in 2014. This increasing participation among the Jammu and Kashmir electorate is good news for those who interpret the vote in Jammu and Kashmir to show the ever increasing integration of Jammu and Kashmir with India.