In Budgam, oldies stick to loyalties, first timers seek ‘change in guard’

Rafiq A Wani
BUDGAM: Abdul Rehman Sheikh is an anxious man. His anxiousness aided by his eagerness belies his age. On the wrong side of 70s, Sheikh, who had come to see his daughter at Ompura village on Tuesday evening wants to be home by the time polling ends at his native village Arigam. He has set for an early 15 km journey to his village early Wednesday and ready to travel on foot to make his vote count. He has already cast a dozen of them in his life, albeit to only party of his liking.
He doesn’t want to change loyalties this time around, too. “I have been voting for one particular party since ages and it will continue this time around as well,” says Sheikh who is taking determined steps to reach his voting place.
In central Budgam that saw a huge turnout, a majority of senior citizens like Sheikh doesn’t want to alter their old loyalties. Abdul Ahad Ganai, a political agent who claims to be in late 60s, is manning troops of his party of liking with all the energy in the world and directing his party supporters how to vote inside the polling booth at Doyan, Chadoora.
He doesn’t mess around who he is voting for this time around. “We have been voting for the Mir family (sitting MLA Javed Mustafa Mir) ever since I cast my vote because they have done exemplary job in this area. I don’t see this changing this time around,” says Ganai, who balloted for the tenth time on Wednesday.
In Budgam town, a Shia dominated area, there were no prizes for guessing who people voted for. Shia clerics ruled the roost by the looks of it with votes going to ‘Aghas’ with different political inclinations.
For Chrar-i-Shareef’s Abdur Rashid Bhat, a 60 plus seasoned voter, voting had its own meaning, despite New Delhi ‘failing to win hearts of Kashmiris’. And, his vote isn’t going anywhere this time around as well.
“We are loyal supporters of our party and it won’t change. We vote to the people who we think are the best for the job,” says Dar.
Picture is all together different with first timers. They want “change in guard”, but keep reiterating their ‘azadi’ sentiment was intact as ever.
Mohammad Abbas, who cast his maiden vote at Panzan, repeats after every sentence that he seeks “azadi from India”, but his vote aimed at bringing new face at the helm of affairs.
“How could I vote for the man (Farooq Abdullah) who termed Kashmiris ‘maha chor’ in New Delhi? It is time to elect someone who gives real picture to New Delhi,” says Abbas, an under-graduate student.
In Chrar town, incumbent Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather’s strong bastion, young generation seems distraught with the work put by current regime and they want to effect change.
“You see, NC and Rahim Rather have worked for villages only and town has been ignored over the years. There is unemployment in the township and now we want to choose a leader who can look after these things,” says Showkat Ahmad, who reckons ‘change is must.’
By the look of things, oldies are sticking their ‘tried and trusted’ political parties, and gen-next is keen to “start afresh’