The voters in Budgam district, which is part of Srinagar parliamentary constituency, irrespective of gender and age, Thursday said they participated in Lok Sabha polls with belief their votes to the regional party candidates would safeguard Articles 370 and 35A of the constitution of India.
Muhammad Ashraf Lone, 50, who vote at Ponchgund polling station in Beerwah, said this time he didn’t vote for development but for protecting Article 370 and 35A.
“I voted for National Conference (NC) candidate and hope he will raise his voice to defend Article 370 and 35A. This time the vote is against BJP,” Lone said.
Beerwah recorded 23 percent voter turnout till 5.pm.
Lone said the link between Jammu and Kashmir with the Indian would automatically end if Articles 370 and 35A were removed.
“We will be free from India automatically if these articles are removed,” he said.
In its manifesto, BJP has pledged that if voted to power at the centre, it would abrogate Article 370, which gives special status to J&K, and Article 35A, which bars non-state subjects from owning any immobile property and jobs in the state.
Almost all pockets of Budgam witnessed low voter turnout with maximum five to seven voters seen standing in queues at few polling stations while some polling stations were marked with sporadic entry of voters in singles.
Aijaz Hussain, 27, a bookseller said he voted against BJP and for development in the village.
“If we boycott polls, the BJP candidate would win elections with fewer votes. So, I voted for NC candidate to keep BJP away,” he said.
Another voter Mohammad Maqbool of Gundipora, Beerwah said he voted for a regional party candidate, who would defend Article 370 and 35A and raise Kashmir issue on the parliament.
“Given the killings in Kashmir, there should be boycott. But, if we don’t vote, BJP candidate could win. We want to show BJP that we are against them,” he said.
Haris Khan, 26, a college student, said he had boycotted previous elections but voted in elections this time as the approach of BJP towards Kashmir was “threatening.”
“A regional party candidate should win and raise our issues in Lok Sabha,” he said.
Haris said BJP was threat to minority community in India and Kashmir in particular.
Khan said BJP’s intentions towards Kashmir were clear as they have banned religious organisation like Jamaat-e-Islami besides vowing to revoke Article 370 and 35A.
Another voter, who wished not to be named, said people were voting for regional party candidates so that the State’s special status is not harmed.
Even women were wary of BJP, saying the party has complicated the process of availing basic amenities and triggered price hike in essential commodities.
Mehfooza Begum, 50, said during the BJP rule, prices of essential commodities including the Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LGP) used for domestic purpose increased manifold.
“Our vote is against BJP this time and if the regional parties fail to keep its promises, we will never vote again,” she said adding “the votes against BJP will not stop them but it will definitely affect them.”
She said implementation of GST and demonetisation have proved terrible as large section of people were affected by them.
In many areas, people were seen wandering around roads and standing near shop fronts but staying away from polling booths.
One such area was Nasrullahpora, where people boycotted polls and also pelted stones on forces and polling station.
Forces used tear smoke shells and pellets to quell the stone pelting youth.
Showkat Ahmad, a 2nd year college student, said the village had seen nothing in the name of development.
“The politicians fail to keep their promises,” he said.
Nasrallahpora, he said, has been staying away from polls due to the “larger sentiment against the mainstream politics and civilian killings in the valley.”
In Chadoora, polling stations wore a deserted look as people largely stayed away from exercising their franchise. It recorded overall 9.2 percent polling till 5 pm.
In Budgam, people flocked to polling stations in groups to vote for development in their respective areas. It recorded 17.2 voter turnout till 5 pm.
“We have been voting in all elections. But, there has been no development. This time against we vote for development,” said Ghulam Mohammad.