Even polling agents ‘boycott’ booths in Pulwama

Pulwama: With most of the people in south Kashmir staying away from elections on Thursday, the polling was conducted without the presence of polling agents of the contesting parties.
Almost all polling booths of Pulwama district visited by Kashmir Reader team were bereft of polling agents. So much so, leading pro-India politicians in the area—Tral in particular—had a low key entry to the booths and didn’t have any supporters with them.
“We had to conduct mock poll without agents of political parties as they didn’t turn up. Normally it is done in the presence of polling agents to make sure voting was conducted in a fair manner,” Nazir Ahmad Bhat, Sectoral Magistrate in Tral’s Dadsara village, one of the hypersensitive areas, told Kashmir Reader.
Majority of polling booths in Tral and Pulwama towns and villages wore a deserted look as people preferred to stay indoors or engage themselves with agricultural activities. The voting percentage, as per government estimates, was well under seven percent, comparatively a low turnout that was witnessed in last Lok Sabha polls held in 2009.
Unlike the normal practice that sees politicians accompanied by their supporters to the polling booths, the politicians in Tral and Pulwama were mobbed with a heavy security cover.
Kashmir Reader team visited at least 25 polling stations stationed in Tral, Awantipora and Pulwama. There was hardly any activity in and around the booths, with some men and women at election duty having a field day playing with their mobile phones.
MLA Tral Mushtaq Ahmad Shah looked tad nervous while exercising his franchise as he had only his security personnel for company from his home to the polling station Tral-i-Bala 51.  Shah accused the ruling National Conference of orchestrating the killings in what he termed as ‘PDP’s den’.
Former J&K Cabinet Minister and NC’s longstanding member, Ali Mohammad Naik, also had a quiet journey to the old town Tral polling booth and back to home, a different sight from what one would witness when the octogenarian’s political activity in his hey days  would invite legions of his supporters. Even his staunch supporters shied away from casting their votes.
In Batagund village, where the Sarpanch and his son was killed, a hesitant Ghulam Mohammad Mir, a local Congress leader, made  his way to the polling booth only to find his was the only one who had polled in the entire area.
In entire Tral area, polling agents didn’t turn up.
Pampore and its adjoining areas weren’t any different.  Even in Awantipora’s Jawbara area which did see some votes cast, even though at a slowish pace, there wasn’t any political activity that would suggest people were keen to exercise their franchise.
Government Boys Higher Secondary School Kakpora that housed five polling booths was the only place that had a couple of PDP polling agents. The duo was busy making sure votes, however sparse, were polled to the ‘right people.’
They did have some complaints, though. They accused authorities of creating impediments purposefully to deny people opportunity to cast their vote.