Srinagar: The second phase of the District Development Council (DDC) polls in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir witnessed a dip in the polling percentage, which was recorded at 48.62% on Tuesday as compared to 51.76% recorded in the first phase.
The highest polling percentage of 75.07% was witnessed in Poonch district of Jammu division. The voting in Pulwama’s poll-bound areas continued to remain lowest for the second time where only 8.67% voting was recorded. Earlier in the first phase, the highest polling was reported in Jammu’s Reasi district where 74.20% of votes were polled.
In Kashmir valley, overall, 33.34% of voting was recorded with the highest votes polled in Bandipora district at 69.66% and the lowest, 8.67%, in Pulwama. Polling was scheduled in as many as 43 constituencies with 25 of them in Kashmir valley and 18 in Jammu division of the union territory. A total of 351 candidates are in the fray, of whom close to 200 are in the valley.
The first major electoral exercise is being held in the region for the first time since the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of J&K into two union territories. The polling is being held in eight phases across the region till December 19.
Voters from the city outskirts began to cast their votes in the chilling temperature from 7 am and many of these booths witnessed continuous footfall till 2 pm, the closing time. The voting concluded without any major incident of violence or protest.
In Malikpora area, about 10 km from Srinagar, nearly 30% polling was witnessed across nine polling booths till 11 am. The voters from the local villages say they have pinned their hopes on the outcome of the DDC elections.
“There is no development and our area is on the border of three districts and we are caught in the middle. We hope a local representative from our area can help bring proper roads and electricity to this forsaken place,” Showkat Ahmad, a local resident of Malikpora, told NewsClick.
Another local, Ali Mohammad, however, said that the main motivation behind their participation in the polls is that there is a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate in the fray.
“Locals of Malikpora including me may not have participated in the polls, but we want a local from our village to win and not the BJP candidate from a nearby village. We do not want the BJP to win,” he said. The local BJP candidate is Riffat Subhan, a panch affiliated to the right-wing since the last 14 years.
But, many voters in Srinagar’s poll-bound areas, including Malikpora, said they have not pinned much hopes on the ‘alliance. They were referring to the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), an amalgam of six mainstream political parties of the region led by National Conference’s Farooq Abdullah.
Haji Ali Mohammad Dar, a 62-year-old worker of the Sajad Lone-led People’s Conference (PC) party, is also disappointed with the alliance. “There is no alliance, it is a waste. All the parties are competing with each other on seats. There is no point of these politicians and they have always exploited us, our sacrifices and dashed our hopes,” Dar said.
Dar, who has lost his optimism after being a political worker for decades, cast his vote despite “back-to-back disappointments.” “Whatever was left for the people here has been snatched anyway in the past year and we are back in the pre-1947 era,” Dar added.
The abrogation of Article 370 is also a concern for the locals who came to the polling booths today, and many are aware about the government’s change in land laws and introduction of new domicile rules. But they believe that DDC polls and reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir are two different issues.
“Who doesn’t want Article 370 bac, but voting in the DDC for the local development is also important. We also believe in the resolution of the Kashmir issue but what can we do—it is something that can be addressed by the political parties and leaders, many of whom have been jailed,” Dar said.