As Khan Sahab constituency in Budgam went to polls in the first phase of the District Development Councils (DDC) elections on Saturday, brisk voting here ensured that it achieved the highest voting percentage in the Valley. Since morning, people in large numbers queued up to cast their vote. At the end of the polling at 2 pm, the voting percentage in Budgam had touched almost 57 per cent, making it the highest recorded in the Valley.
While the outdoor broadcasting vans of news channels were stationed at a polling station in Raithan, it proved to be a spectacle for local children. Voters being interviewed by television news reporters could be seen mainly highlighting the need for development in their area. However, many of the voters stressed that they are “hopeful that somehow brisk voting can help in restoration of Article 370”. “We are here because we want to ensure that our vote becomes our voice and helps in getting us Article 370 back,” said Javed Ahmad.
Away from the media glare, a few kilometres ahead of Raithan, on the Doodpathri road, Gurveth Kalan village had voters beelining to the polling station. For the 81-year-old Khati Begum, a few meters of distance to a nearby polling station to cast her vote took almost 30 minutes. Khati who has been voting for the last four decades said she was happy that the polling station located in a government school was near her house. But like other voters of Gurveth Kalan, Khati too had her share of complaints: “My house is just adjacent to this polling station but look at how bad the condition of the road is. I am here to vote to ensure that my vote results in bringing an able representative who will address our issues,” said Khati.
The enthusiasm at the polling stations even in far flung villages of Doodptahri, Mujpathri, Kralpathri and Lanilab pockets was quite evident as even many first-time voters had stepped out of their homes to vote.
Nisar Wani, a first time voter at Gurveth Kalan block in Khan Sahab constituency described his vote as “precious” saying people in the area had come out to vote with a hope of improvement in infrastructure of their area. “Now that we have voted in large numbers, we should get some benefits. We have been demanding a sports stadium and better healthcare facilities in district Budgam. We hope the empowerment of grass root democracy helps locals here,” said Wani.
Voters in Dragad village of Khan Sahab had a similar story to narrate.
Fayaz Najar, a first time voter and a student of humanities said the “time to boycott polls had come to an end”. “What has the boycott of polls given us. We need development and cannot just have four walls to live in. There has to be an overall development for which grass-root level representation is important,” said Najar.
The excitement and festive environment on the polling day in Khan Sahab could be gauged by the fact that in Wutrad village, outside a polling station, Ali Muhammad Dar, whose two relatives are in the fray, had brought tea and cookies from home to feed people visiting the polling station and the polling staff present there.