This excited Jammu voter treks 35 km to vote

December 7th, 2008 - 6:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Katra (Jammu and Kashmir), Dec 7 (IANS) Middle-aged Mohammad Yusuf, who ferries people on his pony at this base camp of the famous Hindu temple shrine of Vaishno Devi, was in a hurry to reach his village to cast his “precious and important vote.”Thousands of enthusiastic voters like him participated Sunday in brisk polling for six seats in the Jammu region under the fourth of the seven-phase Jammu and Kashmir elections.

The pilgrimage centre falls in this region.

Yusuf’s village Chanka is just about 35 km from Katra, but would take him three hours to reach there as he would have to trek 12 km for an hour before finding some transport.

He had taken a pilgrim from Rajasthan to Vaishno Devi temple Saturday afternoon and returned to Katra Sunday at 10.30 a.m.

From Katra, the Vaishno Devi shrine is a 12-km trek, which over six million pilgrims from across the country every year cover either on foot, or riding a pony or palanquin.

Yusaf earned Rs.450 from this trip and was rushing home. “I was so restless, worried that if my customer took long, I would lose my chance to vote,” he told IANS. His village falls under the Reasi constituency in Jammu region.

He was praying to Goddess Vaishno Devi for the success of a candidate he wanted to vote while he waited for his customer to return. “Most of us ponywalas (those who ferry people on pony) and palanquin carriers are Muslims but we have great faith in Mata Vaishno Devi,” Yusaf said.

“I prayed for my favourite candidate and I am sure with blessings of the goddess he will win,” he said.

Yusaf was initially reluctant to say whom would he vote. “You know it is a secret and I cannot tell you whom will I vote for. But development and progress will decide my preference.”

He paused for a moment and then said, “I am going to vote for the Congress and our entire village has decided this. Ghulam Nabi Azad has given unprecedented development to our area and now he needs to be given a chance to carry it forward.”

He suddenly looked at his watch and got worried. “Look you people have delayed me. I have to reach home and take my wife and son (first time voter) to the polling station. I do not want to miss any vote. Insha Allah (By grace of God) and Devi’s blessings, our Congress candidate will win.”

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