Anantnag: A meagre 1.14 percent votes were cast in polls to 16 of the total 25 wards of Anantnag municipal council on Wednesday. Out of about 32,000 registered voters, only 356 cast their votes.
At most of the polling stations in the town, candidates were scared and reluctant to talk to the media even within the fortified confines of the stations.
While at most of the stations the police did not allow reporters to enter, despite the fact that they were carrying Election Commission of India’s permission, Kashmir Reader did get to meet a few candidates at polling stations in which reporters were allowed to enter.
At the Government Girls’ Higher Secondary School in Lal Chowk, a Congress candidate refused to talk to this reporter, saying he was “over busy” with the polls.
The Congress candidate, who was identified as Bashir Ahmad Pahalwan by the polling staff, refused to talk only after he came to know that he was talking to a media person.
At the Women’s College in Anantnag, several candidates came forward and started introducing themselves, but as soon as they came to know that the people they were talking to were reporters, they refused to talk any further.
“Please erase my name from your notes. I don’t want you to mention my name,” said one of the candidates.
Two of the candidates, however, did talk at Janglat Mandi area. 75-year-old Ghulam Hassan Dar, a retired lecturer, introduced himself as the Congress candidate for his ward.
“I am contesting these polls because I am pro-democracy. I want to serve my people,” Dar said.
He, however, acknowledged that there was a threat perception and he could not canvass for votes.
“You can see that it is already 1pm and out of 2,400 registered voters at this venue, only 14 votes have been polled. Those include 6 from my family,” Dar said.
The BJP candidate for Ward-19 (Mohalla Qazi), Sheila Kaul Handoo, also interacted with reporters, and quite jovially.
She said that she has been told by the party high command to go and serve the people at the grassroots level. “I have been campaigning for over a month now in my hometown Anantnag, though I live in Jammu now. I was sure some people will turn up to vote but none have, so far,” she said.
She added that people were scared to come out. “I would have been very happy if they did, even though I am sure I will win,” Kaul said, who has secured more than 400 votes of migrants through postal ballot.
The authorities had thus far kept the names of candidates a secret. Names of some candidates in Anantnag had been leaked over social media, following which the candidates were moved to secure locations.
The polls were conducted today amid unprecedented security arrangements. While there was no major incident of violence anywhere, a voter was beaten up by some locals in Khannabal area of the town.
According to local sources, the voter was heckled and then beaten, soon after he cast his vote at Khannabal High School.