SRINAGAR: The National Conference’s (NC) boycott call did not have any impact in voter turnout in areas of downtown Srinagar that have been the party’s bastions since 1996.
The areas which include Tujgari Mohallah, Syedpora, Shampora, Sheikh Hamzah Mohallah, on Saturday saw residents coming out and casting their vote. Tujgari Mohallah, a ghetto believed to be settled by NC founder Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, has been a prominent voter base of the NC. Today, the votes were divided between a BJP candidate, a Congress candidate, and four Independents.
“We are an underprivileged lot. The elections matter because the elected person provides all types of help to those who choose him, and withholds that help from those who vote against him,” said 65-year-old Ghulam Rasool Qasid, an old loyalist of NC.
Qasid said that as NC is boycotting this election, he cast his vote for a local Congress candidate, who he believes will help him is resolving civic issues.
Qasid said after he saw a BJP candidate contesting in the ward, he along with a group went to Showkat Kak to contest against him. The BJP’s candidate, Showkat Raja, and one Independent, Firdous Sheikh, Qasid told Kashmir Reader, have been associated with NC and PDP, respectively, in the past.
“If any of those two get elected, they will work against me and those associated with me. Time is witness to how these two guys have been helping their own kith and kin. So, I had no choice but to vote against him,” Qasid said.
Showkat Kak has for the first time participated in elections. He is a well-established businessman, runs three stone crushers and cement and brick factories. He said he entered the fray after locals requested him to do so. He expects to get 300 votes from NC loyalists.
These areas, which vote for personal interests, boost up the poll percentage in the downtown which otherwise boycotts elections. For those who vote, pro-India or pro-resistance politics does not matter. Even the boycott of NC did not matter to them.
In the early morning hours, these areas of Makhdoom Sahab ward had polled 250 votes. Its polling station at Zindshah Masjid, around which live mostly middle-class people, had not cast a single vote. Candidates had not even campaigned there. Kak told Kashmir Reader that his focus has only been these areas where people traditionally vote.
Another local, who sells sand and gravel at a street corner in Shampora locality for more than twenty years now, said he was an old voter of NC, because when NC was in power, no one was interfering with his trade.
“But since the PDP came in power, its local supporters, in connivance with the police, kept asking me to shut the business or pay a monthly bribe. I went to my NC leaders but they were not of any help,” he said.
“So I decided to pay, and retain the place that feeds my family. Today I voted for Congress because it, too, will support me. I will be free from paying bribe. Azadi does not come into the equation here,” he said.
He cited another example of his relative who had to pay bribe multiple times to officials of Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) to get his house constructed. He said that when PDP workers had to carry out any construction, no one obstructed them during the PDP-BJP government.
“Support from the top helps us sustain our living peacefully. Visit any area after the polls results and you will see those people as outcaste who voted against the winning candidate,” he said.