There is increasing scepticism about politicians among voters despite the unexpectedly huge assembly poll turnout last year. It explains the absence of election campaigning. So far, just four rallies have been held in the constituency. Malik Salam, a news agent, predicts a thin turnout on polling day. "A lot was expected from the elected representatives, but things remain as they were," he says, referring to the common refrain of bijli, sadak and pani.
The region is bereft of development. In the four years between May 2004 and March 2008, Mehbooba sanctioned just Rs 3.5 lakh under the MP Local Area Development Scheme. Of this, Rs 2.5 lakh was spent on construction of roads, lanes and footpaths and the rest on toilets. "We don’t know where and how Mehbooba Mufti spent the Rs 10 crore constituency development fund," a prominent lawyer in the district court, Mirza Yaqoob Beg, told Outlook. An MP can recommend development work for up to Rs 2 crore every year in his or her constituency. "The health and education sector here is in a shambles," he added. The number of households with electricity, on the other hand, has actually dropped from 82 per cent to 79 per cent between 2004 and 2008.
Omar Hyder, an undergraduate student, offered another reason for people’s indifference to the polls. "Indian troops are to be blamed for alienating Kashmiris. We can’t even park our vehicles outside our houses. Soldiers are omnipresent and beat civilians for the slightest reasons. There’s been no let-up in human rights abuses." Clearly, the winner from Anantnag will have his task cut out: to ensure development and stop human rights violations.