India Changes Course: Golden Jubilee to Millennium

By Paul R. Dettman | Go to book overview

15

1999 General Election Results

The first phase of polling took place on September 5, when balloting was held in 145 Lok Sabha constituencies located in sixteen states and union territories. Overall voter turnout exceeded 58% but varied considerably from state to state. Nor surprisingly, the lowest figure recorded was 25% in Jammu and Kashmir. While 81% of registered voters turned out in thinly populated and Buddhist Ladakh, the 12% vote registered in Muslim Srinagar, where the bulk of Kashmir's population was concentrated, lowered the state figure to the point where it was only half of the 1998 figure.

The reasons for this sharp decline in Kashmiri voter participation were not far to seek. The All Party Hurriyat Conference, which had led the Kashmir insurgency since its start in 1989, had called for a boycott of the election, and the army personnel who had succeeded in forcing large numbers of Kashmiris to defy a similar boycott in 1998 were now in short supply because of the army's deployment to the LOC that had taken place during the Kargil “war.” Fifteen hundred Pakistani infiltrators had reinforced the Kashmiri militants during June and July, substantially increasing the number of armed enforcers of the election boycott. The limited paramilitary force that was available did its best to “get out the vote” but, shorthanded as it was, it encountered stiff resistance, not only from Pakistani infiltrators and Kashmiri insurgents but from Kashmiri Muslims who were emboldened to resist. The result was an increased level of violence that caused the deaths of some 300 civilians, militants, and security personnel during September alone and made it not only difficult but dangerous for many of the Kashmiris who wanted to vote to go to the polls.

On October 3, the curtain came down on what one newspaper called “the longest, dirtiest and most tiresome campaign” in free India's history when ballots were cast in 118 Lok Sabha constituencies scattered over eleven states. Prominent among these were the Lucknow constituency where A.B. Vajpayee was contesting

-143-

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