Twenty-two-year-old Shivraj Hasnu had just one wish before he pressed the button on the electronic voting machine (EVM) at the Rongbang Pathar L.P. School polling station here in Karbi Anglong Hill district under the Autonomous District Lok Sabha constituency of Assam.
“We want an end to the prevailing situation in Karbi Anglong. This election should give us hope for an immediate end to the bandh culture in Karbi Anglong. It has ruined us completely,” the college-going student of Dimasa tribe, who hails from Lower Ikorani village, told The Hindu.
Other voters who had just come out of the polling station and some of them standing the queue too echoed him.
The Autonomous District constituency with 7,01,268 voters, where polling was held on Saturday, comprises two hill districts — Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao. Manja is about 16 km from Diphu, the headquarters town of Karbi Anglong Hill district and Ikorani village is about 2 km from the polling station.Relaxed moodVoters in rural areas in Karbi Anglong turned up at the booths since Saturday morning in a relaxed mood after the militant Karbi People’s Liberation Tigers (KPLT) on Friday announced withdrawal of indefinite bandh call in view of the election.
However, rumours were doing the rounds that bandh would be re-enforced from 5 p.m. Saturday.
“Frequent bandhs have been adversely affecting studies of our children. Till yesterday we were worried about coming out freely to vote because of the bandh. This situation should change,” said Bijoya Langthasa, mother of two schoolgoing children.
Anita Hasnu, a student of Diphu Government College, said she too voted with the hope that the problem of insurgency and bandh culture would soon end in the hill district. “Organisations call bandh even during our examinations. Then we have to walk five to six km to take our examinations,” she said.
Voters in other polling stations in Mohongdijua, Taralangsu and Kheroni expressed concern that prices of essentials in Karbi Anglong had been spiralling due to frequent bandhs.An opportunityFor some women voters like Bharati Engtipi, poll day brought an opportunity to earn some money. For them, higher turnout means higher earnings. In all polling stations in rural areas, women groups set up temporary stalls for selling boiled eggs, tea, rice cakes, pakoras. By 11.30 a.m. Bharati already sold one plate of boiled eggs.
Booth Level Officer at Klirdap M.E. School polling station, Dandi Ram Bora, said voters were enthusiastic this time due to issuance of the electoral photo identity card for the first time.
Over 70 per cent votes were cast in the constituency, which was won by the ruling Congress in 2009. However, the final figure of turnout might go up as reports from interior locations were still awaited.