31% polling in Kashmir despite cold, COVID

Women voters in a queue at Gultibagh in Ganderbal district on Friday. -Excelsior/Shakeel
Women voters in a queue at Gultibagh in Ganderbal district on Friday. -Excelsior/Shakeel

DDC candidate shot at in Anantnag

Fayaz Bukhari
Srinagar, Dec 4: Braving the chill, people in certain areas of Kashmir valley today waited in queues to cast their vote while at other places the polling stations were deserted as elections were held in 16 DDC constituencies in third phase here today.
Click here to watch video
In Kashmir, the voting percentage was 31.61 percent with Kulgam district recording the highest poll percentage of 64. 45. Kulgam was followed by Bandipora District at 56.73% and Budgam with 50.18% polling in the third phase of elections. The polling percentage recorded in Kupwara was 46.25%, Baramulla 30.94%, Ganderbal 24.69%, Shopian 22.68%, Anantnag 21.64%, and Pulwama 10.87%.
Today 114756 voters cast their vote at 1254 polling stations in 16 DDC constituencies across Kashmir under tight security. Police and para-military security forces were deployed in strength in and around polling stations to ensure smooth conduct of polls. Army also provided area domination to prevent militants from disrupting the polls.
However, despite security, a DDC candidate in Kokernag belt of South Kashmir’s Anantnag district was critically injured in a militant attack today.
The candidate, Anees Ahmad, of JK Apni Party, who is contesting from Sagam Kokernag block, was shot at by militants in Sagam area. He was shifted to a nearby hospital for treatment. The area was cordoned off and operation was launched against militants responsible for the attack.
Militants had fired upon an Independent DDC candidate of Sagam constituency at Sagam, Kokernag in district Anantnag. In this incident, he has received injuries in small finger of his left hand and minor injury on thigh. He was immediately evacuated to nearby hospital for the treatment of his injuries, where his condition is stated to be stable.
Inspector General of Police Kashmir, Vijay Kumar said that he was allocated cluster accommodation in Khanabal and after end of scrutiny period he was properly informed by Police Station Kokernag on the evening of December 3, regarding it.
“He was instructed to get escort personnel for campaigning purpose which he did not take. All the candidates have already been instructed to inform us before going out for campaigning. The information regarding his movement was neither conveyed to PCR nor to concerned Police Station,” he said.
Kumar requested all the candidates and vulnerable people to inform concerned PCRs or Police Stations as and when they are desirous of going for poll campaign or such movements so that appropriate security arrangements are accordingly provided to them.
Police has registered a case (vide FIR No. 149/2020) under relevant sections of law at Police Station Kokernag. “Investigation has been initiated and officers continue to work to establish the full circumstances of this crime. Area has been cordoned and search in the area is going on,” a police spokesman said.
State Election Commissioner K K Sharma has condemned attack on the DDC candidate.
Meanwhile, in Ganderbal area of Kashmir, people had lined up since morning to cast their ballot.
Mehraj Din Bhat, 36, a voter after casting his vote in Ganderbal told Excelsior that he voted with the hope that area will get better facilities.
“I have cast my vote keeping in view that my vote should go to someone who will work for the betterment of people living in this area; others to whom we used to give our votes, once they were elected, they never used to look back to us for next 5 years, but this time, we are hopeful that those candidates come to the fore who care for the people”, he said.
While highlighting the issues his village faces, he said that it lacks better road connectivity, water supply and electricity. “We want all these basic amenities and we are hopeful this time. We have preferred to elect those who are locals, those who know what this area needs”, he said.
Ghulam Hassan, 44 years, who was waiting in the queue despite bone chilling cold in Lar area of Ganderbal said that the candidate for whom he was voting today has assured him to work for the betterment of people of the area. “Let us see what happens, if he failed in keeping up his promises, he won’t stand anywhere next time. And those who have not delivered will be defeated”, he added.
BJP candidate Sheikh Abdul Rashid, from Ganderbal DDC constituency said that these elections are about development and prosperity. “These elections have got nothing to do with other things than the development and the face-lifting of basic infrastructures of our villages”, he said.
“People face issues such as non-availability of water, electricity, lack of good roads. We want to provide the people of this area with better facilities and for doing that our party is committed”, he assured.
“The residents of Ganderbal have been giving their votes to NC and PDP for last so many years, but, in return they got nothing and at the same time, I believe that people will show the door to these parties and will elect the candidate from the BJP. I want to tell the people that they should give us a chance to serve them”, he added.
He accused PAGD of opportunism. “PAGD is opportunistic, earlier, they were enemies to each other and now they are together due to the fear that the BJP will not leave anything to them, but they are mistaken if they think that they are going to win”, he said.
In Bonakoot village in North Kashmir district of Bandipora, people came out in large numbers to vote in the DDC election with majority saying that lack of development in their area drove them to polling stations in large numbers.
A 29-year-old Mushtaq Ahmad, said that he came out to vote to see his village developed and has better health care facilities. He added that the health centre in his village has no basic facilities and is in a dilapidated condition that forced him to come out and cast his vote.
“I want my local representative to take up this matter with the concerned authorities and the people who came out to vote here want to empower the local representative by giving him public support,” he said.
At Braripora Polling Station, voters said that the DDC elections have local importance and they want their local issues to addressed by their representatives with public mandate.
“These elections have a local importance and we have plethora of issues that need to be addressed and we hope these issues will be addressed by our local representatives if we give them full public mandate,” said 55-year-old Ghulam Mohammad Bhat.
At Mantrigam Polling Station, voters said that they want to keep BJP at bay as this is the question of their identity, dignity and honour.
At a polling booth in Boys Higher Secondary School in Kreeri in Baramulla district of North Kashmir, a 115-year old woman cast her vote.
The woman helped to the polling station by her relatives said she choose to vote for a better future for her family. “I have been casting vote since my younger days. In past, I have voted for PDP, NC and Congress but they did not do any kind of development. This time I have voted in favour of a local candidate,” she said adding “I will continue to vote till my last breath.”
“We want development as BJP did nothing in the last two years. They hurt our sentiments by scrapping Article 370. This time we will use our vote against BJP to keep them out of Kashmir,” she said.
In Wagoora and Sangrama DDC constituencies, voters were upbeat and were waiting in long queues outside the polling Stations.
Abdul Aziz from Nowpora said that it is the first time that he along with his neighbours are voting. “Our locality is facing hardships as it has been ignored by all the representatives so far. We need clean water, uninterrupted electricity and proper road connectivity,” he said.
Kaiser Ahmad, a resident of Shopian in South Kashmir said they no longer feel voting, as they have been betrayed every time they impose a trust on political parties to fulfil their prior commitments.
“We voted in favour of PDP to keep BJP out in last elections. Later, the same party aligned with them. All the promises of development and providing jobs proved a hoax,” he said.
However, others who voted in Shopian at polling station said that the candidates contesting the elections were their relatives so they came out to vote.
“Our family has never taken part in elections but one of our relatives was contesting the election this time, so we were forced to vote in his favour,” said Waseem.
Another voter- Shareefa Banoo said that she voted as one of her relative was contesting polls. “After we heard that BJP workers are casting votes, we decided to vote in favour of our relative. At least he will bring development in the area as compared to the BJP candidate,” she said.