BUDGAM: A retired cop was among two candidates for the lone Sarpanch seat where panchayat elections were held in Narbal block of Budgam district on Saturday.
Hailing from Gagarpora in Narbal panchayat block, Syed Abdul Rashid, 62, served the police department for not less than forty years. Two years after his retirement, he decided to represent his people by standing for Sarpanch in Gagarpora ward.
On Saturday, polling was supposed to be held in two blocks in Budgam, namely Narbal and BK Pora. However, in Narbal block there was a shutdown observed and elections were held only for one Sarpanch seat. Two contestants were in the fray, and the polling booths were established in Government Boys Higher School Gagarpora and in the Tehsil office.
Located along the Srinagar-Gulmarg highway, the school had almost disappeared as dozens of vehicles were standing outside on the main road to provide a shield to voters and polling staff.
It was quite unnecessary, as no one bothered to visit the polling station which resembled a bunker. Only government forces could be seen here.
In between the huge crowd of paramilitary troops, police officials, and some other employees, an old man appeared. Wearing a Khan dress, his face was dominated by cheek bones, which had forced his eyes back deep into his face, almost into insignificance.
The man was none but the retired policeman, Syed Abdul Rashid, one of the two candidates for Sarpanch in Gagarpora.
Making a mockery of Rashid, a group of cops and polling staff encircled him just outside in the lawn.
Speaking later to Kashmir Reader, Rashid said, “My aim in contesting these elections is nothing else than to bridge the gap between administration and common people. If I become Sarpanch of my locality, my first priority would be my own deprived people.”
He added, “During my entire life, or during the forty years of policing, I have served for the welfare and well-being of common people. Whenever I got an opportunity, I helped the oppressed Kashmiri people in every aspect.”
“I will continue to work for the betterment of financially deprived people, if I am given the mandate by locals,” he said.
Rashid said that in the ’90s common people were joining militant ranks, but now this has changed. “Youths having doctorate and many other degrees are joining armed movement in Kashmir because of the “zulum” (oppression) by Indian agencies,” he said.
“This oppression and harassment by them prompted me to stand as Sarpanch candidate. I will try end this oppression in my area, up to my level best,” he said.
Unfortunately, Rashid’s dreams vanished when the results were declared soon after the elections ended at 2pm. Syed got a single vote – his own. His opponent, Aasha Parveen, runner-up in the 2009 assembly elections in Beerwah, won with a margin of just four votes.
Asha, the Budgam district vice-president of the Indian National Congress, has been runner-up twice in assembly elections in Beerwah on a Congress ticket. She has also contested parliamentary elections in Pulwama-Anantnag constituency.
Out of the total 2,880 registered votes, only five votes were polled in Narbal polling station, a percentage of 0.17. In BK Pora block, 467 votes were polled out of 2,335.
Narbal block is divided into ten panchayat halqas, with 88 panch wards. The contest was in one Sarpanch ward, one other having been won unopposed, and 8 staying vacant.
Of the 88 panch wards, four were won unopposed and 84 lie vacant.
Similarly in BK Pora, out of 30 Sarpanches constituencies, 22 are lying vacant. Seven have been won unopposed and elections were held for only one seat.
Of its 227 panch wards, 195 are vacant, 31 have been won uncontested, election was held in just one.