Ganderbal: Much to the disappointment of the candidates in fray, polling day in Ganderbal turned out to be a day of shutdown, protests, and low voter turnout, especially in the town areas.
Voting in the Ganderbal segment of the Srinagar parliamentary constituency remained a low-key affair throughout the day that was marred with disturbances. The voting never gained momentum after reports of violence from several parts of the constituency began arriving from early in the day. Tension intensified in Ganderbal also after violence escalated in most parts of Srinagar and Budgam, causing the death of seven persons and injuries to scores of others.
In areas like Lar, Tchoont, Wanbal, Wouliwar, Kangan and in the higher reaches of Ganderbal, voters were seen waiting in queues to exercise their franchise in the morning. In the majority of the other areas, though, the turnout was dismal. Voting in Ganderbal, however, witnessed relatively less violence as compared to other parts like HMT and Soura in Srinagar, and in Budgam and Beerwah in central Kashmir.
Even as locals came out early in the morning to cast their votes, the turnout did not exceed 3 percent by 10am. Voting later picked up and by 1pm about 11.25 percent voting was recorded. As many as 21,985 voters including 12,846 male and 9,139 female voters cast their votes till 3pm, while in the Kangan segment 13,989 votes and in Ganderbal segment 7,996 votes were polled. In many polling stations, no votes were cast till midday, while in many others a single-digit turnout was logged.
No votes were cast in Yangura and Tulmula areas, which had 986 and 817 registered voters, respectively. Same was the case in Fatehpora, where none of the 1,134 registered voters turned up. By 1pm, Saloora had only 3 votes cast out of 622 voters on rolls.
A local of Ganderbal who is a worker of the ruling PDP party seemed quite distraught. “All the votes are going to National Conference,” he said. Most of the voters expressed support to the opposition party NC in Ganderbal segment. “Voting this time is not just about choosing a party. I have come to oppose the PDP-BJP alliance. This is my main motivation to vote. We reject this alliance,” a voter said. In Kangan town, a group of youth staged a peaceful anti-election protest in the morning. Chanting pro-freedom slogans, the protestors said they couldn’t forget the sacrifices of Kashmiris. The protestors later dispersed peacefully.
Ganderbal and Kangan are seen as bastions of the National Conference. In the state assembly elections, Ishfaq Ahmed, the incumbent member of legislative assembly from Ganderbal assembly segment, defeated the PDP’s Qazi Mohmmad Afzal by a margin of 597 votes. While Afzal managed 18,881 votes, Ishfaq took the lead by getting 19,478 votes. As many as 53,448 votes were polled in this segment in the previous assembly election.
In Kangan, the NC’s Altaf Ahmed won by a margin of 1,432 votes, with a total of 25,821 votes, whereas his opponent Bashir Ahmed Mir of PDP received 24,380 votes of the total 51,192 electorate in the last assembly election.
With a lesser turnout this time, the NC is expected to win from the segment. According to locals, the ruling PDP has not been able to garner much support in Ganderbal and Kangan segments.