Braving Threats, Kashmiris Poll 70% In Last Phase
10 February 2005
The Indian Express
Srinagar: The day after an Imam, a newly-elected councillor, was shot, Kashmiris braved threats and logged 70 per cent votes in the last phase of the civic polls. This overwhelming response -the first phase saw 49 per cent, the second 44 and the third 20 per cent-comes after the killing of four councillors in the last two weeks. Despite intermittent rain and chill, enthusiastic voters jostled and queued up outside booths to elect representatives for the six municipal committees in Budgam and Ganderbal. At the National Conference traditional stronghold of Charar-e-Sharief, brisk polling was registered though the visibility in the morning was very poor. Alamdar Colony resident Haleema Sofi said since Parliamentary and Assembly polls made no difference to her family, she wanted to vote in the local candidate. 'If the MPs and MLAs are not accessible to me, I can always catch hold of the councillor. He is two doors away from my house and will be more accountable,' she said. Village headman Abdul Gaffar Dar said he will pressure the nominated member to install a transformer. Hundreds of yards away, Congress district president of Budgam Zahid Hussian was shouting at Naib Tehsilar Abdul Ahad, charging him with encouraging bogus voters from his coalition partner People's Democratic Party. 'I will inform the chief election officer. You have imported voters from outside this town,' he said. Near the Charar mound where once militant commander Mast Gul would hold vigil of the entire township, 302 of 395 votes were polled in Ward 1. Down the road from Budgam market, villagers of Ustad Mohalla and Chana Mohalla found their names missing and protested. 'The PDP is playing foul with us. They have stripped (us of) our voting rights because they know we are NC supporters,' said Ghulam Ahmad Bhat of Karipora. In Ganderbal, the fierce battle between the PDP and NC was evident. Cousins Dilshada and Firdosa, who are pitted against each other in the Duderhama seat reserved for women, watched calmly as their supporters argued over a name in the voters' list. 'We live in one house, represent different parties, but we have the same goals to achieve. We want the village lanes and roads to be fixed, lady doctors at the disciplinary and more schools,' said Dilshada.