‘Who is contesting against whom’, This is not election but mystery

As Srinagar’s Batamaloo and Karan Nagar areas went to polls during the second phase of urban local body elections Wednesday, the residents in the twin localities said they neither know the location of polling booths nor the names of contestants.
This reporter had to roam for around 20 minutes inside Batamaloo to finally locate five polling booths set up outside the police control room (PCR) where—till 3 pm—only 13 votes had been cast. The poll timing was 6 am to 4 pm.
“We don’t know anything about polling booths, election or candidates,” said Mushtaq Ahmad Sheikh, a resident of Reck Chowk, Batamaloo. “This is not an election but a mystery.”
Most of the residents this reporter spoke to, said polling stations in the area used to be near Batamaloo Ziyarat and in the adjacent schools.
“This time, nobody came to ask for votes,” said Sajad Ganie, another resident. “We do not know who is contesting against whom, or, is there a contestant at all.”
In the polling booth near PCR, a voter said he has come to vote for his relative who is contesting on a Bharatiya Janata Party ticket.
“Frankly, I do not expect any development and I voted just for my relative,” he said, adding that till Wednesday morning, “I did not even know that my relative is contesting. He called me in the morning and asked me to vote for him.”
Another voter Ghulam Ahmad Kumar said he voted to see development in his ward. “If we want development in our areas, we have come forward and vote. At the same time, we can restrict RSS-BJP only if we vote secular parties to power.”
Many local residents said such is the level of “secrecy” surrounding the polls that people are seen joking that only candidates themselves know they are standing in the elections.
“We have no idea who is contesting from our ward. There has been no campaign or door-to-door canvassing by anyone so far. There are simply no details anywhere. Only candidates know they are contesting; perhaps even their families may not know about it,” said a group of youth at Batamaloo.
The poll scene in the nearby Karan Nagar locality was no different. Here, five polling booths were set up inside the CASET school.
“Nobody cast a vote here since morning,” presiding officers at all the five polling booths told Kashmir Post.
Besides the polling staff, two agents—one from Congress and another from BJP—were also present here.
“We knew about elections, but we always side with boycott,” said a group youth playing cricket near a government medical college gate.
“We fully endorse the boycott call by the separatist leadership,” they said.
A group of elderly people said that elections are a futile exercise and “New Delhi is befooling the international community.”
“Since 1947 we are fighting for a cause and these elections won’t help people solve any problems,” Mukhtar Ahmad, an elderly person, said.
“Ask anyone here if they know who the contestants are; everyone will tell you they have no idea,” said Touseef Ahmad, a resident of Karan Nagar. “Forget about contestants, we do not even know where voting is taking place in our area.”

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