Sangrama, Baramulla, Jammu: The Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir recorded a total of 50.53% turnout in the third phase of District Development Council (DDC) polls held here on Friday. While in the Jammu division 68.88% votes were polled, in Kashmir Valley 31.61% votes were polled.
The highest voting in the third phase was reported at 75.20% in district Reasi of Jammu division, while the lowest turnout was witnessed in Pulwama district of South Kashmir for the third consecutive times, which recorded 10.87% votes. The winter capital of Jammu witnessed 70.44% voting.
A DDC candidate of the Altaf Bukhari led Apni Party Anees ul Islam was injured after armed assailants believed to be militants fired upon him at Sagam area of Kokernag in South Kashmir. Anees was rushed to a local hospital for treatment and is said to be stable.
The attack by suspected militants was condemned by Bukhari who called the attack on his grassroots worker an “act of cowardice.” “This dastardly attack on our contesting candidate is a manifestation of frustration among forces inimical to peace and the rising popularity of Apni Party among the people,” Bukhari said while calling for the review of the security situation in the wake of the attack.
The attack was also condemned by former chief minister Omar Abdullah who called the reports “disturbing.” “Disturbing reports coming in from Kokernag in South Kashmir of an attack on a DDC election candidate.. I hope and pray that he survives the attack. Elections have always brought out the worst in those forces who have remained inimical to peace in Kashmir,” Omar tweeted.
The erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir is witnessing its first major electoral exercise after the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, last year.
The mainstream political parties of the region have formed an alliance called the People’s Alliance of Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) in the wake of the revocation of Article 370 and are fighting on seat sharing basis against the Bharatiya Janata paty (BJP) and its allies, which the PAGD sees the Altaf Bukhari-led Apni Party as.
In the poll-bound areas of Wagoora and Sangrama in North Kashmir, voters were optimistic about the outcome of polling but, their demands are limited to jobs and local development.
Ghulam Nabi Dhobi, 80, told NewsClick that he voted against rising unemployment in the region. “There are no jobs and I have voted so many times in my life that I can’t remember now but only for the sake of employment opportunities,” he said.
Another voter, Parvaiz Ahmad Lone, a political activist and social worker, said there is a need to provide opportunity to “honest candidates”. “We have been conned for years by successive governments and politicians and it is time for a new face,” Lone said.
In Wagoora village, around 50 km from Srinagar, four candidates are in the fray – all women. The National Conference has fielded Shaheena, a close aide of former PDP minister Basharat Bukhari who later joined the NC. 63-year-old Naseema Firdous, who is the mother of Apni Party candidate Shoib Lone and an independent candidate Rehana Begum, is also in the fray while PDP founder and ex-MP Muzaffar Hussain Baig’s wife Safeena Baig is also fighting on the same seat.
As many as 305 candidates are in fray in the third phase across the region, a majority of them from the Valley. Among the total of 280 constituencies, voting is being conducted in as many as 33 constituencies in the third phase.
A little ahead of Wagoora, along the Srinagar-Baramulla highway, at a polling booth in Sangrama young voters were seen lined up to cast their first vote. They were neither moved by PAGD’s slogans for the restoration of Article 370 nor hopeful about the resolution of Kashmir.
“There is so much of state land here but we don’t have a cricket ground to play. We hope that our local DDC will provide a playing field for youth of Sangrama and that’s our realistic hope from the outcome of polls,” a voter in his mid-20s said.
In Jammu, Voters Upset With BJP, Congress
In Jammu, the link road connecting Jammu Tehsil to Bhalwal Panchayat is in poor condition, yet the locals were seen lined up to cast their votes. Subash Chandra, 45, who appeared disappointed, said his village is plagued with several issues, including power outages, shortage of water supply, dilapidated roads and unemployment.
“And these are not the problems which have surfaced few years ago. These problems have been there for a decade yet no one has done anything.”
On Friday, 33 territorial constituencies went to polls in the third phase of DDC polls. Out of these, 16 are in Kashmir and 17 in Jammu region. In Jammu district, Bhalwal and Marh also went to the polls today.
Newsclick visited both Bhalwal and Marh to understand the aspirations of the people.
In Bhalwal, which is home to 70% dalits who work as daily wagers, this time locals have chosen a new party for themselves. Chandra said he will vote for Bahujan Samaj Party’s (BSP) candidate Raj Kumar. In a state which is riddled with conflict and is heavily divided on religious lines, voting for BSP by the dalits reflects the deepening caste divide.
However, locals said that for them candidate is more important than the party.
“BSP has shown us a light of hope. We expect development and employment under Raj Kumar. For years, we have felt neglected,” said Chandra.
Chandra’s views were echoed by his neighbours who accused BJP and Congress of being corrupt and oblivious to their needs.
“We have seen both BJP and Congress candidates, they don’t even visit us. Only on the days of election, they remember our existence,” says Shubham Bhasin, 24. He said unemployment is rampant and they are forced to work as daily wagers because of no jobs.
Neetan Ram lamented that any names were missing from the voters list. “My family members are supposed to vote today and but wife’s name is missing from the voters list whereas, fathers has to visit another ward for voting as his name has appeared there only. This is the condition.” Bhawal has three wards and two polling booths.
In Marh, which is dominated by upper castes, mainly brahmins, there is a tussle between BJP and an independent candidate chosen by the locals.
“BJP has chosen a parachute candidate who has no idea of what villagers want, whereas, our chosen candidate knows about our problem. So why would we vote for the BJP candidate. We want to choose candidate not the party,” said Vikas Khajuria.
In Marh, locals grieved that they don’t have a ration card because of which they don’t have access to subsidised food. “The dealers here are corrupt. He has kept all ration cards to himself so we can’t go anywhere and stay obliged to him.”