Despite chill, Corona, voters in large numbers turn up in Valley

Long queue of voters at a polling booth in Srinagar on Saturday. -Excelsior/Shakeel
Long queue of voters at a polling booth in Srinagar on Saturday. -Excelsior/Shakeel

DDC elections begin on impressive note: 51.7% cast votes

Overall situation under control: IGP

Fayaz Bukhari

Srinagar, Nov 28: Despite chilly weather conditions and amid COVID-19 pandemic 40. 65 percent voting was recorded in Kashmir valley in the first ever District Development Council (DDC) polls that was held here under tight security.
The areas where the polls were held today witnessed tight security to prevent any violence. The day passed off peacefully with no reports of violence from anywhere. Security around polling stations was tight and Army and para-militaries were also providing area domination for smooth conduct of polls.

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Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kashmir, Vijay Kumar, told Excelsior that overall situation remained under control throughout Kashmir division except one incident of minor stone pelting at polling location CR Pora in Kulgam district in which one voter was injured. “FIR has been registered at police station Damhal Hanji Pora, Kulgam,” he said.
According to official figures, the polling percentage recorded in Bandipora was 43.57 percent, Baramulla 32.51 percent, Srinagar 33.76 percent, Pulwama 6.70 percent, Shopian 42.58 per cent, Kulgam 34.35 per cent and Anantnag 43.32 per cent voters casted their votes.
In Fakir Gujri on the outskirts of Srinagar, the voting was brisk as large numbers of people were in a queue waiting for their turn to vote. Here there was a direct contest between a BJP candidate and an Independent candidate from the same locality.
A 92-year-old Sheikh Ahmad Bajran while waiting for his turn to vote said that he expected that the DDC candidates will work for the area which has been neglected. “Though these people do not even look back to us once they are elected, we must exercise our right of casting vote. However, I am hopeful that the one in whose favour I have cast my vote, will come up to our expectations. I want the development of this area along with the prosperity of the people living here”, he said.
A 64-year-old Ghulam Ahmad said that they want to make sure to elect a suitable and efficient candidate. “Our area sans development on every front and we need someone to address these issues as a whole, so we have come out to vote in large numbers”, he said.
A 50-year-old Raj Muhammad while casting his vote told Excelsior that he was hopeful that the works that are lying pending and those that should be taken up will be expedited.
BJP candidate, Fareeda Banu, said that the area is backward and no one has cared for the development and the betterment of the people living in this area. “I am contesting for the first time and I will make sure that I work for the betterment of my people if I am elected. The decision lies with the people of the area”, she added.
On Srinagar’s outskirts, a group of people had gathered in the premises of Government Girls High School at Rawalpora to cast their vote. “The winning and losing elections is a part of the process, but they want whosoever wins should come up to the expectations of the people”, said one of them who named himself as Zahoor Ahmad.
“We have tested the existing parties so far, but this was a time to give a chance to the new faces so that traditional culture is kept at bay,” he said.
In Budgam, large number of people came to vote. A voter Ali Mohammad from Khan Sahib area said: “We are voting for the benefits of our village. So far, we have only seen oppression. But, now, it is time to put an end to the previous situation and we want every kind of development in our village.”
In South Kashmir’s Pulwama district, the voting percentage was very low and those who voted said that their vote is for development. “Big issues like restoration of Articles 370 and 35 A are for bigger platforms. My vote is for Bijli, Sadak and Pani. I want that our area should get basic facilities as it is we who are suffering in absence of these”, said Irfan Ahmad of Pulwama.
A voter from Keller area of Shopian district said that it is not the domain of the DDC candidates to restore Article 370 and they were just casting their vote for development. A large number of people voted in the area despite cold weather conditions.
Abdul Rehman, a voter from the upper belt Pahalgam told Excelsior that the area has been neglected and he cast his vote just for the development of his area. “We are voting for development and we want employment for our children who are sitting idle”, he said.
People in Kulgam which is one of the worst militancy hit areas of Kashmir said that they want peace and development. “We have seen only killing, firing and other things since we opened our eyes and we are fed up of everything. My vote was for peace, stability and development of our area for what we have been begging since decades”, said Danish Ahmad, a voter from DH Pora Kulgam.
A 100-year-old woman, Zaina Begum, shivering with cold stood in a queue at a polling station in Nadrigund Tangmarg in North Kashmir to exercise her franchise, said “I voted. I am hopeful that my vote will bring a change this time.”
She said that she has been voting for the past many years. “But this time I voted because we will be in direct contact with the DDC poll candidates and they can take our grievances to the higher authorities,” she said.
Begum said that she voted for the development of her area. “There are many problems like lack of electricity, water, bad roads and others. We want such issues to be addressed,” she said.
In snowbound Gurez valley of Bandipora district, people in large numbers despite cold came out to vote. A voter at Gurez said after casting his vote that they want that their problems should get redressed so they came out to vote in large numbers.
“In winters, we remain cut off from Kashmir and the second biggest problem is we don’t have proper mobile connectivity. That is why we now consider it appropriate to stand up and support our local representatives and we hope they will serve us better,” he said.
However, the residents of Chorwan village stayed away from the DDC polls accusing successive representatives over the years of neglect. There were 871 registered voters in Chorwan village and not a single vote was polled.
“The village has witnessed zero development in the past 70 years and the representatives have made false promises only. Our village even lacks basic facilities,” said Hamidullah Lone, a local resident.
The villagers accused that they have always been cheated by their representatives as there is no development visible on ground. “This is for the first time that we stayed away from the polls as the politicians and successive governments have made hollow promises with us”, said a resident.
“We have no mobile network connectivity in the village, roads are in shambles and there is no Water Supply Scheme in our village. This is what we get in return after participating in every election in the past 70 years,” said another villager.
The voters from Koragbal village in Gurez also stayed away from polls, saying that the polling station was shifted to Kanzalwan village, which is very far from the area. “We used to have a polling station in our village during every election but this time it was shifted to Kanzalwan, which is very far from here. The village also received heavy snowfall recently, so we couldn’t make it to reach the polling booths,” they said.
In the meantime, National Conference (NC) general secretary, Ali Muhammad Sagar today alleged that designated polling booths were changed overnight at many places in Kashmir today.
The DDC election would not be a referendum as this election is being fought for local developmental issues and to keep Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at bay, he said
“Since we had already expressed our reservations, designated polling booths at few places were changed overnight as BJP did not want PAGD to win these elections. This election is being fought for local developmental issues and its results would be a referendum,” he told reporters here.
He also thanked the people of Jammu and Kashmir for coming out in large numbers for voting. He said the parties which have aligned with PAGD could not campaign due to the inclement weather and the prevailing situation. He, however, said that leaders held door to door campaigning and organized meetings in town halls.
He said people in Jammu and Kashmir faced immense problems in the aftermath of the Centre’s major decision on Jammu and Kashmir last year. He added that people want the special constitutional position of Jammu and Kashmir to remain intact so that the erstwhile state does not lose its unique identity