33.3% turnout in Valley; mixed response to polling, lack of development main concern

People stand in a queue to cast their vote at Kunzer area of Baramulla district. —Excelsior/Aabid Nabi
People stand in a queue to cast their vote at Kunzer area of Baramulla district. —Excelsior/Aabid Nabi

Fayaz Bukhari

SRINAGAR, Dec 1 : State Election Commissioner (SEC) K K Sharma today said that Phase-II of the District Development Councils (DDC) polls recorded 49 per cent voting and there was no untoward incident anywhere in Jammu and Kashmir.
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Addressing a press conference here, Sharma said that Phase-II elections for DDCs remained peaceful and the total voting percentage was at 48.62 percent.
“Kashmir recorded 33.34 per cent voting,” the SEC said.  He added that in Kashmir region, Bandipora recorded highest number of voting percentage of 69.66. “Kupwara recorded 58.69 percent and Ganderbal 49.14 percent. Pulwama district showed a rise in voting percentage at 8.67 against 6 percent in the phase I,” he said.
He urged the voters to come out in large numbers to participate in the DDC polls.
The SEC said that DDC is the new tier of governance. “Each district will have a separate DDC with chairman and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) who will be either KAS or an IAS officer,” he said. He added that DDCs will have to deal with three F’s—Funds, Functions and Functionaries and decision making body will be the elected representatives only.
Sharma said the Election Commission of India will take a final call on holding the first Assembly polls after the reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir as a Union Territory.
“It will not be appropriate for me to comment on it. The Election Commission (of India) will take a final decision on Assembly elections,” Sharma said.
He was replying to a question whether the situation was conducive in Jammu and Kashmir for holding the elections to the legislative Assembly of the Union Territory
Sharma said as state election commissioner, his mandate was limited to holding polls to urban local bodies and Panchayati Raj Institutions.
“We held deliberations with the law and order machinery and other agencies involved in holding the elections for District Development Councils before deciding on it.
“I am sure a similar process will be followed for holding Assembly elections but the Election Commission will decide on it,” he said.
And there was mixed response today during the second phase of polling which was held under tight security. At some places despite cold weather conditions people had lined up outside the polling stations whereas at other places they were empty.
In Amira Kadal constituency of Srinagar a group of voters at the polling station established at Government Girls Higher Secondary School Amira Kadal said that they have no expectations from any of the candidates contesting the polls.
“We are just casting our vote today to keep BJP away, who always took steps against the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” said a man wearing mask and didn’t want to be identified.
“This vote is only against the anti-people decisions like abrogation of Article 370 taken by the BJP led Government. We don’t want to realize our mistake in the future for not casting ballots”, said a young woman at the polling Station before casting her vote.
In Panzinara area on the outskirts of Srinagar, the voters said that they have come out to vote for development of their areas and there seemed to be much enthusiasm in them. “We have come out to cast our ballots only to ensure that our sufferings and day-to-day miseries will come to an end,” Wali Mohammad who was waiting outside a Polling Station at Panzinara.
The voters said that their area is facing tremendous hardships as it has been ignored by all the representatives so far.
Mohammad Sultan Mir, a 90, year old man from Panzinara said that he voted this time with the hope there might be something better this time. “If we see, only the poor are suffering and today I have come to elect my representative who will address the issues that the poor section of the society is facing on a day to day basis. There is a need for addressing the issues of the poor people and coming to their rescue and pulling them out of hardships”, he said.
A voter said that they are voting for a local candidate who can better understand the problems of the area. “We have seen the parties and their leaders. It was the time to stand on our own and thus we chose a candidate and filed her nomination papers. We are sure that once she is elected, she will come up to the expectations of people as she is also one among the sufferers in the locality,” he said.
There are two contestants in the fray in the DDC polls here at Malikpora constituency. One among the contestants is a local lady of the area while the other is a BJP candidate.
In Kulgam district, there was mixed response to the polls, some stayed away while others were enthusiastic.
One of the voters who wanted not to be named said that the leaders are making hollow promises on restoration of Article 370. “When article 370 was abrogated, Central Government even detained former Chief Ministers’, so how can DDCs help in restoring special status. It is a hollow promise”, he said.
“The DDCs can’t restore our special status but we must choose best candidates so that we can see development on ground at least”, he said.
Shakeel Ahmad, a voter from Shangus said that last time they boycotted Panchayat polls due to which most Sarpanches and BDCs are residents of Jammu. “For a mere a simple signature we have to visit Jammu. It is better to choose a best local candidate so that we won’t face such problems again”, he added.
The people in Tral area of Pulwama district stayed away from polls. People of Rathsuna, Shairafabad, Nowdal, Midoora and Pinglish said that casting vote in the past has brought them no relief in the past so they decided not to vote.
“We used to vote for our basic amenities but our demands were never met, so we decided to stay away from polls,” said an elderly man at Noristan village in Tral.
However, at many places people did come to vote in some villages of Tral block.
In Kunzara area of North Kashmir’s Baramulla district, braving the cold, a 90-year-old different abled Jana Begum of Utikoo village today cast her vote.
The woman was helped by her son to reach the Polling Station set up near her house in a Government Middle School Utikoo. “I am voting for a change and development in the area. The successive representatives have failed to develop our areas. We hope that this time it will be different”, she said.
In separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani’s  hometown Duroo village in North Kashmir’s Sopore area the response to the polls was dismal. Only a dozen votes were polled there.
However, nearby villages of Dangerpora, Watlab, Warpora and Hathlangoo witnessed brisk voting. Voters here mostly said that they want to keep BJP at bay. “There has been a lot of injustice with us so far, we don’t want to suffer any further,” said a voter.
A 56 year old woman, Halima, from Sopore in North Kashmir said they have been electing leaders for years now and they have done nothing for their area. “We are out to elect the new ones who, we feel will deliver on the ground. All we want is the resolution of basic issues that we are facing and for that, we are today out to cast our vote in favour of the suitable and able candidate. We feel that there is a need for change”, she added.
In Ramhal area of Kupwara, the polling was brisk. Large numbers of people were in a queue despite cold weather conditions.
A 34-year old Kulsoom from Ramhal said that the area is least developed and people are facing lot of hardships due to it.
“So many people came but nobody did anything for us. The issues are there, they have not been resolved so far and today we have decided to elect new people who will resolve the issues that we are facing. You see, the roads are in shambles, our youth is unemployed; there are a number of issues that we are confronting and which were left unaddressed by the people who came earlier. We are hopeful that new people will make efforts in order to resolve our issues”, she said.