BHOPAL: Voters boycotting elections to protest against lack of basic amenities isn’t new in the country. However, what sets Kunwar Mandali locality — a part of Indore III Assembly constituency in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh — apart is that about 2,000 voters here have decided not to get their fingers inked for fear of stray dogs.A big banner, bearing the image of a ferocious dog, welcomes visitors to the locality in the city voted the country’s cleanest and one of the most developed.
In a telling message to politicians, which also gives away the mood of the voters, the banner reads, “Kutton Ke Aatank Se Pareshan Rahwasi: Kripya Yahan Vote Mangne Nahi Aayen (The residents here are living in the shadow of terror unleashed by stray dogs. Please don’t bother seeking votes here).”
With the authorities turning a deaf ear to their pleas for action, the residents are determined to stay away from the polls as a last resort in their quest to be rid of the menace.
Sushil Sharma, a resident of the locality and an employee of a private hospital, said, “We are living in fear of stray dogs. They have unleashed terror and have forced us indoors. Children have stopped playing outside and fear boarding school vans unless parents or grandparents escort them to the vehicles with sticks in hand to keep the dogs at bay.”
Vithal Nema, a cloth trader, said, “My daughter is the latest to be targeted by stray dogs here and is still nursing her wounds. We have pleaded with the authorities to get the dogs off the streets, but no one cared to act. Now, we are left with no option but to boycott the election.”
Pradip Sahu, who runs a paan (betel leaf) shop, is now busy tending to his septuagenarian father who is nursing a fracture in the hip sustained while fighting off a pack of dogs a week ago. His father is admitted to a city hospital. “Why should we go out and vote when we’ve been forced indoors because of the stray dogs?” said an angry Sahu.
“Civic body staffers said they can’t catch stray dogs for fear of reprisals from animal rights activists. They said all they can do is sterilize them. But even that hasn’t been done,” Sharma said.In 2013, the BJP had won the polls. This time, with the party battling anti-incumbency, the vote boycott by Kunwar Mandali residents could come back to haunt the BJP should the contest go to the wires, say observers.