SRINAGAR: For the second time in as many weeks, the voters in Kashmir rejected the boycott call of separatists and voted in large numbers in nine Assembly seats that alongwith nine other constituencies in Jammu went to polls in second phase of elections on Tuesday.
J&K Chief Electoral Officer Umang Narula said about 71% electorate have exercised their franchise in the 2nd phase of polling in 18 constituencies of five districts in the State.
In all the nine Assembly seats spread over two districts of Kupwara (North Kashmir) and Kulgam (South Kashmir), people – men, women, young and elderly - waited in long queues to exercise their right to franchise and rejected separatists boycott call. In some areas, people had assembled at the polling stations ahead of scheduled time and waited in the chilly cold morning for start of the poling to cast their votes.
There was enthusiasm among the voters despite the fact that militants had targeted two panchayat members in South Kashmir’s Shopian district in two days. On Sunday, militants killed a sarpanch of ruling National Conference in Shopian and on Monday militants critically injured a sarpanch of PDP.
In Handwara constituency in border district of Kupwara, where from separatist-turned-mainstream politician Sajjad Gani Lone is making electoral debut in J&K Assembly elections after unsuccessfully contesting 2009 parliamentary elections, there was brisk polling with Sajjad supporters hopeful of his win.
“He is Sher (Lion) of Kupwara and he will win the seat with big margin,” said Javed Iqbal, a young voter after casting his vote in one of the polling booth in Kulgangam Handwara.
When told that Sajjad has aligned with rightwing BJP, he said he has done it for the betterment of the people. “He met Narendra Modi but he has not become Modi. Every government in J&K has to remain connected with Delhi. If Modi killed Muslims in Godhra, how is Sajjad connected with them”.
“If given a chance, Mufti and Omar too will support Narendra Modi if voted to power,” he said.
Sajjad is facing stiff competition from NC’s Ch Mohammad Ramzan, who is CAPD minister in Omar Abdullah government.
After casting his vote, Sajjad Lone said he is open for post poll alliance with any party.
While hailing PM Narendra Modi’s efforts over action against army men in two cases in Kashmir, he said, “For the first time, army admitted mistake publicly after the killings. No other government including Congress was able to do that,” he said.
The Trehgam village in border district of Kupwara, which is native village of founder of pro-independence Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) Mohammad Maqbool Bhat also witnessed brisk polling.
Bhat was hanged in New Delhi’s Tihar jail in 1984 and his mortal remains were buried inside the jail premises.
The Trehgam village is part of Kupwara constituency, which is represented in the outgoing State Assembly by NC minister and MLA Saifullah Mir. The constituency is witnessing a triangular contest between Mir, PDP’s candidate Fayaz Ahmed Mir and Advocate Bashir Ahmad Dar of Peoples Conference.
The scene was no different in South Kashmir’s Kulgam district, where polling for four Assembly constituencies Kulgam, Noorabad, Devsar and Houmshalibugh was held. Large queues of people were seen outside the polling stations and men and women were waiting for their turn to cast their votes. The Houm Shalibugh witnessed moderate 36.5 per cent polling.
People in South Kashmir voted against favourism, development, employment and accountability.
“I voted for development. Our area is facing under development. We are facing massive unemployment problem and educated unemployed youth are not being provided jobs. There has been favouritism in allotment of funds like NREGA and other schemes,” said Mushtaq Ahmad Wani R/o Puhloo Noorabad.
The voting in Kashmir was peaceful except few incidents of clashes between NC and PDP workers and stone pelting in Kulgam.
Narula said overall voter turnout in 18 constituencies that went to the polls today was 71 per cent.