M A I N   N E W S

Region to witness ‘vote for change’
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Solki (Rajouri), November 14
Development and peace have emerged as the foremost issues in the ongoing battle of the ballot in the state. Ever since militancy erupted in the state in 1989, development had taken a backseat. Now, with guns cooling down, people feel elections will be a harbinger of peace.

The writing on the wall is lucid. Politicians who managed to retain seats for long without pushing development agendas will now bear the brunt of people’s ire.

The common man is so passionate about these issues that people in militant-affected constituencies like Mendhar, Bhaderwah, Surankote etc are willing to ignore the echoes of the boycott call given by militants. Residents feel it is time they derived basic amenities of a civil society like drinking water, roads and electricity.

Sharekhi, a small village in former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad's constituency of Bhaderwah, has threatened to boycott the elections if electricity does not reach them before polling commences.

In this remote village in the Kalakote tehsil of Rajouri district, Mohammad Bashir, a farmer, said: “There is no drinking water. Even villages that have taps get water on rare days. Children have to walk at least 15 to 20 km to the nearest school where there are no teachers. Farmers are totally dependent upon rainfall for irrigation.”

If the prevailing mood of the people is any indication, most sitting MLAs, especially those who have retained their seats for long will be “de-throned”. This is despite the fact that polling in the seven Assembly segments of Poonch and Rajouri (going to the polls in the first and second phases on November 17 and 23) is mainly held on the basis of caste and community.

“We don't care about party affiliations. Only candidates with a clean personal image will stand a chance after their go at the hustings. Political leaders have exploited us. Now, we understand their deceit and are bound to hit back” said Kuldip Raj Sharma of Bhambla in the Reasi constituency. The mood indicates that the region will witness a “vote for change”.

For many like Kuldip, water, roads, schools etc have assumed larger importance now. Those with the slightest charge of misusing their authority or getting benefits for their kin are headed for a disaster.

In some way, the state's two important regional parties, the PDP and NC, have sensed the mood. Therefore their manifestoes centre around these issues. Unfortunately, the Congress will not be able to cash in on the development work done by Azad during his term as the chief minister as the party is yet to place its proposed policies and programmes before the people.

People are now openly cornering politicians by raising questions like “what has it taken various governments to complete the construction of the road between Makol to Sadeen for over 15 years”.

Given the response from the voters, one can only expect many new faces in the forthcoming elections.



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