‘Every hour we receive one of them,’ says polling officer of the count of voters
Anantnag: With Mehbooba Mufti’s hometown taking up the mantle, people of Anantnag district responded with indifference to Lok Sabha polls conducted there on Tuesday.
The polls however were conducted by and large peacefully, with minor stone-pelting reported from only a couple of places
The unusual, extraordinary 3-day division of polling for one Lok Sabha seat of Anantnag, will see the second phase of voting on April 29 in Kulgam district, and on May 4 in Pulwama and Shopian districts.
In Anantnag district in the first phase today, main towns like Anantnag and Bijbehara saw people preferring to stay indoors and enjoy a holiday. A meagre number of voters walked to the polling stations – established rather far away from inhabited areas.
In Anantnag town, voters came out in trickles to the polling stations, which remained deserted for most part of the day. The polling station at the Government Women’s College in main town, only 8 votes were polled out of the total 895 till 1:30 PM.
“We have been waiting patiently for the voters to come. Every hour we receive one of them,” said a polling officer, at polling booth number 65A, named Mattan Adda.
Similarly in another polling booth – number 63, Lazibal B – the total number of votes polled by 1:15 PM was 4, out of a total 904.
People in Anantnag Kashmir Reader talked to gave different reasons for not voting. Some maintained that the Lok Sabha polls meant nothing to them, while many insisted that they were following the poll boycott call given by the pro-freedom leadership.
“You see, I have even kept my shop open. I don’t care about these elections or any other elections. It’s a farce and will fetch us nothing,” a shopkeeper in the old town area declared.
By the end of polling time, Anantnag town had recorded only 3 percent of polling.
The lowest poll percentage in the district, however, came from Bijbehara, where only 1.89 per cent of the voters exercised their right.
In this home town of former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, the tide seemed to be against her with even the people who voted expressing deep resentment against the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in general and Mehbooba Mufti in particular.
The total number of votes polled in the town was a dismal 1,500 or thereabout out of more than 93,000. Polling booths remained empty and deserted throughout the day.
Kashmir Reader talked to some of the people who did cast their votes and they readily acknowledged that they voted for the National Conference (NC).
“We were PDP workers but their policies have left us feeling cheated. They inducted dozens of people from Bijbehara into government jobs and each one of them was from among their relatives,” a former PDP worker told Kashmir Reader.
He said that he and more than 100 other PDP workers joined the NC last year, hurt by the treatment the PDP leadership meted out to them.
“We are ensuring that each one of us votes for the NC,” the disgruntled worker told Kashmir Reader.
Mehbooba cast her own vote in Bijbehara at about 2:30PM, at the polling booth named Bijbehara-B. She was accompanied by her daughter.
Only 30 other people had polled at the booth apart from Mufti, till 3:00 PM, out of a total 345 votes.
Mehbooba however expressed hope that “the people” will make her win.
“The people have been supporting me all the way through and I hope that they will support me this time round as well,” Mehbooba told reporters soon after she cast her vote.
The overall voting percentage in the district was buoyed by areas like Pahalgam, Kokernag, Shangus and Dooru where a decent number of people came out and voted for their candidates.
Pahalgam recorded the highest percentage of voters at over 20 percent.
Meanwhile, clashes were reported from only a couple of places in Anantnag district, in Bangedaar and Soaf Shali areas. The voting percentage was dismal in these areas as well.
In Bangidaar, 13 people had voted out of a total 630, and in Soaf Shali 27 had voted out of 696 till 2:00 PM.
PDP, NC workers exchanged blows:
In Bijbehara, minutes after Mehbooba Mufti left the polling station, the workers of PDP and NC were involved in a brawl and exchanged blows with each other.
The scuffle erupted after the NC workers alleged that bogus votes were being cast by the PDP workers and demanded proof of identification from a female voter.
The PDP workers alleged that people from the NC were harassing women voters. CRPF men on duty had to resort to cane charge to separate the brawling parties.
The workers however continued exchanging blows for a few more minutes in the lawns of the polling station before they were dispersed.