General indifference to general elections in Srinagar

General indifference to general elections in Srinagar

Srinagar: Most voters chose to stay away from the ballot in Srinagar city which witnessed sluggish voting throughout the day on Thursday. The city’s few pockets where brisk polling took place in previous elections this time saw thin turnout of voters.
Along the Srinagar-Pantha Chowk highway at Bemina, where more than a dozen polling booths were established in government properties, the voter turnout was significantly low. While the highest votes polled in the booths were below 150, the lowest was zero.
A young polling agent at the ITI Bemina polling booth was himself surprised at seeing some voters. He said the public mood had changed since 2016 when charismatic Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed.
The polling agent, who was a student, said that he voted not in lieu of any benefit but out of conviction, as votes of Kashmiri people are vital for protection of J&K’s state subject laws and the state’s development. He reasoned that an election boycott would only propel “undeserving” candidates to Parliament.
On the outskirts of Srinagar at Gund Hassi Bhat, the Shia stronghold where previous elections saw long queues of voters amid a general boycott, the rush was thinning out in the afternoon. Till then, the two booths established in a school there had seen less than 800 voters exercising their franchise. The total voter count was above 1,700. Many people in the booth blamed lack of development for the low turnout this time.
In downtown, the booths were empty with staffers and soldiers deployed on duty basking in the sun. At a booth established in government girls degree college Nawa Kadal, only 8 votes were polled till 2:30pm. The soldiers manning the gates were allowing entry after verifying credentials through a pigeonhole on the gate while stones were being pelted on them.
Amid a few stones causing huge thud on the tin roof of the booth, an elder manly who entered the premises for casting his vote called his family to say they should not risk their life in coming out to vote.
There were almost similar scenes at other polling booths where polling agents, election staff and soldiers were sitting idle. At Chattabal Veer, where a polling booth was established in the building of the fisheries department, only 18 votes were polled out of 571.
A lone polling agent visible there said votes were cast for both PDP and NC candidates.
A traditional National Conference supporter at Idgah who said he voted early in the morning blamed the previous regime for the low turnout, saying the PDP-BJP government’s muscular policies had stopped people from trusting mainstream political parties again. “Didn’t the 2014 assembly election saw an impressive turnout even as NC couldn’t gain much?” he questioned.
At Qamarwari, an old woman alongside her married daughter after casting their votes excitedly prayed for success of National Conference candidate Dr Farooq Abdullah.
Her daughter revealed a personal incident which forced her to openly cast her vote. She said some weeks ago her mother-in-law showed disrespect for her “beloved” leader, NC founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. “When my daughter told me about it, it pained my heart. Today I openly told her I will vote for Sheikh sahib,” she said.
Her mother, who said she has been voting since she became eligible to do so, asserted that people vote for Farooq Abdullah or Omar Abdullah but for Sheikh Abdullah. “Even if nobody votes for the plough, God will help Sheikh sahib’s party,” she said.