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Monday, Sep 23, 2019

Lok Sabha elections:Amid calls of boycott, youngsters in Baramulla vote for change

The constituency is spread over 15 Assembly segments of three districts of north Kashmir, including Kupwara, Baramulla and Bandipora with 13, 17,738 electors.

lok-sabha-elections Updated: Apr 11, 2019 19:28 IST
Mir Ehsan and Ashiq Hussain
Mir Ehsan and Ashiq Hussain
Hindustan Times, Kupwara
Like previous years, people in urban pockets stayed away from polling booths. There was no visible tension in any area and tight security had been put in place to ensure smooth polling.
Like previous years, people in urban pockets stayed away from polling booths. There was no visible tension in any area and tight security had been put in place to ensure smooth polling. (HT PHOTO)
         

Young men and women were seen in large numbers exercising their franchise while in many pockets people preferred to stay away from polling booths as north Kashmir’s Baramulla Lok Sabha constituency went to polls on Thursday.

Some of the electorate was voting for development, some for change and some youngsters were angry with the way Governor’s rule and President’s rule had manifested itself in the state. The voters wanted to put a person in Parliament who would at least talk about Kashmir. In main town Baramulla, Sopore and at Palhalan Pattan, very few people made their way to polling stations to cast their vote.

Like previous years, people in urban pockets stayed away from polling booths. There was no visible tension in any area and tight security had been put in place to ensure smooth polling.

People were seen lining up to cast their votes at Sarai Dangerpora’s polling station number 94 in Bandipora district’s Sonawari assembly constituency. Just two hours into polling, 150 electors, including 55 women had cast their votes out of a total of 870 voters.

“My vote is for Akbar Vakil. He has ensured a lot of development and we expect him to do more,” said a young woman student wearing a colourful scarf. She did not share her name.

But there were many other youngsters who did not agree with her assertion saying they lacked basic facilities like safe drinking water and power despite being in close proximity to capital Srinagar.

“All votes here are for change. We need a revolution. NC did nothing,” Ali Mohammad, 29, a government employee said.

Nine candidates are in the fray in the constituency, including National Conference’s Mohammad Akbar Lone, independent candidate Engineer Abdul Rashid, Abdul Qayoom Wani of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and Raja Aijaz Ali of Peoples’ Conference (PC). Lone had been elected MLA of Sonawari thrice in the past.

The constituency is spread over 15 Assembly segments of three districts of north Kashmir, including Kupwara, Baramulla and Bandipora with 13, 17,738 electors. In the last Lok Sabha elections in 2014, Muzaffar Hussain Baig of the PDP defeated his nearest rival Sharief Ud Din Shariq of the National Conference.

At Singhpora Pattan in Baramulla district, 177 votes were polled out of 667 in polling station number 59 by 11:15 am. A large number of youth had gathered in the premises of the school in which the polling booths were set up. Pattan has often witnessed stone pelting and protests earlier during polls.

Twenty-year-old Asif Malik has been urging others to vote. “I was a stone-pelter and there are five cases registered against me. PDP said that they would revoke such cases but nothing was done. I would throw stones for the freedom of Kashmir but now I want people to vote for Er Rashid. He can’t solve the Kashmir issue but at least he will raise his voice,” Malik said.

“This is the first time that people are voting like this. Many stone pelters are voting. We know there is a boycott call but irrespective of whether anybody votes or not, the people get elected. So what is the fun of boycotting polls?” Bilal Ahmad, a labourer said.

Just a few km away at Palhalan, people avoided voting. Security forces had latched the gates of the higher secondary school from inside in which polling station numbers 10 and 11 were set up, owing to stone pelting nearby. Of the 1412 total number of votes, just 15 people had voted till 12 pm. “We don’t vote as this is shown as referendum in India’s favour. We will vote when there is some solution to the Kashmir issue,” said a young man outside the school without revealing his identity.

At Baramulla town, Khurshid Ahmad who was sitting outside a polling station said, “We do not vote as this is against our conscience. We have never voted in past elections too.”

At 4 pm out of 945 votes, 79 votes were cast at Kanlibagh of Baramulla town. At 4:30 pm, just 78 votes out of 4538 in six polling stations of degree college Sopore were polled.

Another youth Fayaz Ahmad said that the last time the candidate who won the general elections was from his area. “The only thing our MP did was to praise Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He did not highlight issues of our people in Parliament,” he said.

In Handwara, which is the home town of People’s Conference chairman Sajjad Lone, voters were waiting in queues for their turn to enter the polling booths set up in a Higher Secondary school in the town. “We have voted as we want our local representatives to represent us. We have seen how under Governor’s rule, Article 35A and 370 is under threat. We want to change that,” said Firdous Ahmad, a student, while coming out from a polling station.

At Kupwara town, 65-year-old Bakhti Begum along with her son was waiting for her turn to cast her vote at the Girls Middle School. “I am voting to get our day-to-day problems solved.”

At Tregham, at 2 pm, 16% polling percentage was recorded in four polling stations set up inside a government school.

First Published: Apr 11, 2019 18:05 IST