The first phase was held across Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday and over 22 per cent of the seven lakh voters had exercised their franchise till 11 am. Two DDC seats — Gund-A and Gund-B — went to polls in the central Kashmir district, which recorded a polling percentage of 23.14 till 11 am.
“Political issues are for bigger platforms like the assembly or the Parliament. What role do the DDCs or for that matter panches and sarpanches have in framing laws. This is a small platform to address the developmental issues of the people at the local level,” 67-year-old Shareef-ud-Din said after voting at a polling booth in the district’s Thune area.
Zahida Begum, a voter at the Government Higher Secondary School in Hariganiwan, said she came out to vote to support a local candidate who could address day-to-day issues.
“We have many issues that need attention. I do not know anything about Article 370, but I want the issues of our locality to be resolved,” she said.
The Centre on August 5 last year had announced abrogation of Article 370, which gave the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir special status, and divided it into union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
Juma Koswal, another voter, said that “bigger issues are for bigger parties to discuss”.
“Yes, our identity has been snatched from us (after abrogation of special status), but this election is not for that,” he said, adding that people are voting for candidates who can solve local issues and problems.
Some, including first-time voters, however said that this election was a “small fight” for restoration of special status of the erstwhile state.
“This election is also important as through this we can keep those parties and people away who took away our special status,” Yaseen Ahmad said, adding that though the DDC polls had nothing to do with the issue, but “this would send a message how the people feel about last year’s decision”.
The eight-phase elections are seen as a triangular contest among the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), the BJP and the Apni Party floated by former finance minister Altaf Bukhari.
The PAGD — an amalgam of several mainstream political parties, including NC and PDP, seeking the restoration of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status which was revoked by the Centre last year — has been accusing the Bukhari-led party of being a B-Team of the BJP.
Of the 1,475 candidates in the fray for 280 DDC seats, 296 candidates are in the first phase, according to officials. Many voters in the district also said that the elections should not have started at 7 am in view of the chilly weather. But as the day progressed, several turned up at polling booths to exercise their franchise.