LOW TO MODERATE TURNOUT IN PULWAMA

The four assembly segments of Pulwama district on Monday registered a dismal to moderate voter turnout.

Pulwama, Rajpora, Tral and Pampore recorded an overall voter turnout of 0.64 percent, 1.59 percent, 0.93 percent and 4.65 percent respectively. Out of the 450 polling stations, 211 saw no voter in the district.

All these assembly segments have largely been the strongholds of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and National Conference (NC). Before 2008, NC had been winning the elections from these segments, but in 2008, PDP replaced NC.

This time poll fervor was missing and most of those who came out of their homes to vote were mostly NC activists, a group of voters told Greater Kashmir at a polling station at the Government Degree College Pulwama.

Fearing violence, the administration had clubbed nearly 10 polling booths of Rajpora and Pulwama segments here. “Due to security reasons, out of 296 polling booths in Pulwama district we had relocated 67 booths to different areas,” sad an official.

The few who voted said their party will protect the identity of Kashmiris.

“For the protection of our identity I have decided to choose my candidate. If we will not vote then BJP will continue to create trouble in Kashmir,” said a voter Majid Shafi of Pulwama.

Another voter who identified himself as Ghulam Nabi Bhat said he hoped that the party he voted for will protect the special constitutional status of Kashmir.

The situation in Tral segment was no different: at the end of the day, poll percentage was 0.93 percent. Majority of polling booths in main town Tral and its adjoining villages wore a deserted look. Moderate polling was witnessed in a few Sikh dominated villages, where all four major parties in the fray got some votes.

At the polling station in main town Tral, located in Horticulture Development Office, guarded by dozens of police and paramilitary soldiers, only three votes out of the total 3500 had been cast. At Tral 58 B station, out of the 910, only 20 votes were polled till 3pm.

A voter at the polling booth located at the Block Development Office Tral showed his stained finger and said: “This time there is big reason to vote because our leader has vowed that he would grant district status to Tral.”

Moderate polling was witnessed in Khrew and Shaar-Shaali areas of Pampore assembly segment. At 8 am, NC parliamentary candidate justice Hasnain Masoodi along with dozens of his supporters cast vote at polling station located in Government Higher Secondary School Khrew. Long queues of voters were seen till afternoon.

“I am voting for the first time because we are lacking the basic amenities of life. I hope our leader will develop our village,” said Zarina, who was holding her newborn baby in the lap while waiting for her turn at the polling booth located in Shaar Shali.

Except Khrew and Shaar-Shaali areas of Pampore, the rest of the stations recorded low or dismal turnout.

In Kakapora, fearing violence the authorities had bunched 13 polling booths together at the Government Higher Secondary School Kakapora. Both polling staff and security forces were idle and gossiping throughout the day. A polling official said no voter had turned up in polling booths 77 and 24 by 12 noon. These two had 1654 registered voters.

In polling booth located at Drangbal Pampore, only 10 votes were polled out of the total 483.

“Due to rising tensions we have decided to stay away from elections. The politicians take votes and never see the voters again. Staying away from polls is our choice and democratic right,” said a local Ghulam Qadir Bhat.

Polling booths in Awantipora, Dogripora, Larkipora, Padgmapora of Pampore segment witnessed a dismal voter turnout. Even the employees on election duty were surprised.

“From 2002 till now I have been engaged in election duties in different areas of Kashmir. I have seen long queues of voters and fights between political workers but here I hardly see anyone voting,” said a presiding officer who did not reveal his name.

In Rajpora segment, hilly areas witnessed moderate polling while as people in the main town stayed away from polls.

“I will always vote no matter what. My party has released me from prison and my villagers from the clutches of Ikhwan during the 90s. The fate of Kashmir was changed by my leader and my vote would always be gratitude for him,” said an elderly man, Ghulam Hassan, of Rajpora.

A few voters who turned up at various polling booths in Rajpora segment said they voted for the overall development in the area. “Health is priority and my party has played an active role of developing health sector in the area. We have modern equipments in community health centre and more than 16 doctors are available now,” said a voter at polling booth located in Rajpora.

Most of the voters, he said, who voted today were PDP activists.

A complete shutdown was also observed across Pulwama and Shopian districts. Tens of hundreds of police and paramilitary troopers were deployed at sensitive locations.