by Farzana Nisar
DAMHAL HANJIPORA: In the first phase of elections held today, it was a fight between three female candidates in Damhal Hanjipora micro-constituency of south Kashmir – Shazia Yousuf, Shazia Jan and Hajira.
Shazia Jan, daughter of an NC worker was fielded as a PAGD candidate. Hajira is the wife of former PDP MLA, Abdul Majeed Padder, who contested as an Apni party candidate. Shazia Yousuf is an independent candidate.
In DH Pora, the remote part of the Kulgam district and a separate assembly constituency, the politics has remained sharply divided between the PDP and the National Conference. It was a bastion of NC when Wali Mohammad Ittoo was in politics. After his assassination, it is his daughter, Sakina Ittoo who represents the NC. But the PDP emerged as a counter-politics under Abdul Aziz Zargar. After Zargar’s death, PDP groomed Abdul Majeed Padder. He became a minister and finally quit the party after the fall of BJPDP government.
“This is the area where votes are cast to parties rather than candidates,” a young voter said. “People have been supporting the two main parties for years, and they will continue doing so no matter what.”
“If Omar Abdullah or Mehbooba Mufti would have been in the contest, we would have preferred to stay away. But these DDC candidates are our own local people, how can we let them down?” another voted added.
According to the official figures, Kulgam recorded a voting percentage of 24.4948% till 1 pm. In the first phase, polls were held at two constituencies, DH Pora and DK marg.
Earlier in the day, there were crowds outside the polling stations. In the afternoon, the footfalls had reduced to a trickle.
“No COVID test is being done here,” shouts a middle-aged man happily while leaving a polling station. Moments later, few more people join him to cast their votes in the polling station. Since, DDC election is the first major political activity in Jammu and Kashmir, after COVID19 hit the world, people in Noorabad area were a little apprehensive about the process of voting.
“Asi dop yeti ma corona test karan, nate aashaaw aes sulii aamit (We thought corona test is being done here, otherwise we would have cast our votes earlier),” said a female voter.
During earlier elections, army and police personnel in numbers used to be a common sight but this time masked health professionals in white aprons also dominated the scene. Temperature checks through thermal scanners were done nearly at every polling station.
“We are here to make sure that all the SOP’s are in place. We requested the people to maintain distance and at least wear masks,” said a medical professional, working at Wadipora polling station of the constituency. “The list of positive cases in the area has already been provided to the authorities, now it is up to them. We don’t know how they will be asked to cast their votes,” she added.
However, not all people gave the impression of being worried by the health crisis. Without wearing masks and ignoring social distancing, voters were seen standing in long queues. “I have a mask but I forgot that at my home,” an old woman said. Another voter said that normalcy has returned and he doesn’t need to wear a mask anymore.