In Bandipora, people vote not for issues but to mint money

Wasim Khalid
Bandipora: As the winter sun rays start to penetrate through the fuzzy skies of November, the young, old and middle-aged people swarm the roads and streets like army of ants towards polling stations. Around afternoon as the weather warms, so does the polling.
However, with poll fever reaching its zenith, the local village rivalries and hostilities too started to spit in open as lava sprouts from the volcano. Perhaps, such unravelling of scheming and plots gave a look as to what triggered bulk of the polling. The voters were voting against enemies, for their relatives and acquaintances to reach the throne of power, not specifically for the issues and infrastructure development.
“I am not voting on an issue,” Nazir Ahmad said as he waits for his turn to poll at Sarai Dangerpora polling station housed in a government building. “Our current National Conference legislature had not even come once to see our locale even after the floods struck. But he visited our neighbourly locale to deliver food items. There and then only I thought him to teach a lesson.”
Just near to Nazir stood Ghulam Ahmad Rather, an aged man sporting an unkempt beard. As per him he is voting from 1982. But today he has come out to vote to defeat Peoples Democratic Party leader from Sumbal-Sonwari constituency.
“I am a labourer by profession. I voted but my living conditions never changed. This time I want NC candidate to win. The PDP is not good for our area. If they (PDP) do win they would favour our enemies in another village who are at loggerheads with us on many issues like distribution of water schemes,” he explains.
However, contesting his own claims, Rather says he finds strong resonance in the call of Hurriyat Conference (G) chairman Syed Ali Geelani to boycott the polls, but what forces him to vote is the redressal of local administrative issues.
“Our local issues like construction of drains and tube wells are being addressed by these legislatures,” he said. “Let Geelani Sahab calls for protests, you would see we would hit roads demanding Azaadi.”
Just ahead in Bandipora’s Mandera locale consisting of 748 potential voters, the entire electorates were casting their votes for NC candidate, Mohamamd Ashraf Wani.
“Everybody of us voted for Wani. He is a dynamic leader,” a young, bespectacled, Arif Hameed said. “The PDP did not work here. We want NC to come and take charge.”
“Perhaps, Wani is a local of Mandera. That is why we all voted for him. He wins or not, it is with God,” Hameed said.
Hameed was not alone in his views. Many candidates as those of Awami Itehad Party and Peoples Conference were voted either for being local or by their immediate relatives and acquaintances in many areas.
However, Aijaz Ahmad Mir, a polling agent of NC at Rakhshilwat polling station of Sumbal area had a different way of looking at the huge turnout of electorates at polling stations.
“Honestly speaking, everybody is voting for minting money by hook or crook. They want to milk anybody, not to speak of morals,” Mir, who earns his living by digging out sand from nearby Jehlum, said.
“I recently constructed a house. My relatives and neighbours know I am working for NC. They think I have been given contracts from which I minted money and progressed. So they allied with the opposing parties,” he added.
Mir said that currently voters are not fighting on polling issues. “Those people who could not get chance to mint money through corrupt means in NC government are voting for PDP. They are disgruntled. They think they would milk PDP,” he said.
Perhaps, his words explain high turnout in Bandipora.
Standing under a warm sun near Sadrekoot, Sonawari, two-aged man, showing their allegiance to main regional parties, NC and PDP, reflect what Mir has been referring to.
“People are voting for the NC. PDP is just loosing everywhere. See how much progress our party has brought in our area,” Mohamamad Ismail, sporting a white stub, and staunch self confessed supporter of NC said near the Sadrekoot polling station.
However, PDP supporter, Ghulam Mohammad, disagrees.
“NC has not progressed our area. Only its activists and workers prospered. It is they who are taking all the public contract works and getting employed in government sector,” adding, “Now PDP would come to power. It would be our time of prosperity.”