The public discontent with the mainstream parties in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district was on display on Tuesday as majority of voters’ stayed away from the polling stations.
Most of the polling stations wore a grim scene while few witnessed moderate polling in the first two hours amid unprecedented security cover.
Bijbehara, which is the native place of PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, witnessed total boycott with the area recording only 2.4 voter turnout as out of 93289 voters mere 1905 voters exercised their franchise.
The near complete boycott was also witnessed in main town Anantnag, which recorded 3.47 percent polling.
A poor voter turnout was also recorded in the remaining four Assembly segments —Dooru 17.28 percent, Kokernag 19.36 percent, Shangus 15.09 percent and Pahalgam 20.37 percent.
There was no poll fervour across Anantnag as people choose to stay home or enjoy leisure at play grounds.
Those, who participated in the poll exercise, largely were relatives of politicians and their workers.
At Gurri and Adder villages, which are part of Bejbehara Assembly segment, people were engaged in poll discussion at a play ground close to a polling station in a local school manned by police and paramilitary personnel.
Abdul Rouf (name changed), who boycotted the polls, said people have “lost faith” on politicians in Kashmir including those from PDP as they have “failed” to keep up with the promises they had made to people.
He said when PDP got majority in 2014 elections, people believed that late Mufti Sayeed as a chief minister could resolve the issues and take Kashmir out of the “chaos”.
“The PDP had sought votes to keep BJP away from the State. People believed that PDP had the potential to resolve the issues, revoke laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and Public Safety Act (PSA). But, later they aligned with BJP just for money,” he said.
Rouf said people believed that Mufti Sayeed could end the bloodshed in the Valley but “the situation turned worse as the killings and harassment didn’t stop.”
Mohammad Yousuf Dar, 55, a retired handicrafts dealer, said India and Pakistan have made Kashmir a ground issue to secure votes in the two countries.
“The situation in Kashmir benefits elections in other states of India as well as a Pakistan,” he said adding, “There has been no benefit to people on development front from any government in past.”
Dar’s statement proved testimony to the plight of a woman voter, who cast her voted at a polling station setup inside heavily guarded Government Degree College Anantnag.
“I’m a widow and cast my vote so that someone could provide a bridge for my house,” the woman voter said.
Many people, who voted or boycotted, maintained that the situation post killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, and PDP’s alliance with BJP was the reason for the boycott.
“It is PDP which brought RSS-backed BJP here,” said a Congress election agent in Anantnag, who had been PDP poll agent in past elections.
At Larkipora in Dooru Assembly segment, Waheed Ahmad, who cast his vote for the Congress candidate, said PDP-BJP alliance in 2014 Assembly election was a “mistake”.
“We want to send a right candidate to the Lok Sabha, who can at least talk about Kashmir,” he said.
Another voter, Mohammad Yousuf Shah said this time the vote was against the BJP to protect Article 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution that provides special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
“It is important to send a right candidate, who can fight the BJP’s Kashmir policies,” he said.
At Damhal, the native village of Congress candidate and State Congress chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir, people queued outside a polling station to exercise their franchise.
This was perhaps of the few villages where poll fervour was witnessed.
Mohammad Syed, a voter in his 50s, said there is discontent among the people over using the Kashmir situation as poll plank.
“There is anger against the PDP over its alliance with BJP, which wants to abrogate Articles 35-A and 370. The special status of J&K has to be protected at every cost and PDP or NC can’t afford it at Centre, where the regional parties like them have least relevance,” he added.