Elections dates have been annunced. They will be held for the Lok Sabha in April- May 2014 and for the J&K Assembly after Oct 2014.
The political environment in Jammu and Kashmir State is quite different than other states. The stakes and stake holders are also not quite similar. Rather it will not be wrong to say that stakes and stake holders in J&K are different even regionwise.
No doubt the issues like corruption in government institutions, social & material security of common man, development and issues like unemployment do concern the people of J&K across the board but unlike other Indian States the extent to what these issues matter as regards the vote bank politics are overshadowed by issues like accesion 1947, Art-370 of the constitution of India, plebiscite demands, autonomy,Kashmir Valley centric politics, the uneasy State- Center relations etc.
Over the years the Kashmir valley centric leaders and political parties have succeeded in bringing even the national leaderships under their influence.
Since valley centric politics has been reaping dividents all these years, there has been a mushroom growth of such parties and leaders. Kashmir Valley has now many leaders to exploit the people in the name of Kashmiriyat and other issues. So, Kashmir centric leadership (including separatists ) is sure to feel shortage of support base and those who aim at sharing power through constitutional process will have to look outside of Valley to add more numbers in order to remain front runner.
Parties like National Conference shall be formally drawing their election menifestoes. May be it is time for them to do some serious rethinking, particularly keeping in view Oct 2014 Legislative Assembly polls.
The Grand Old Party of Kashmir is certainly facing a serious crisis since its existence. The once All J&K National Conference has been reduced to Valley centric party. It had no representation in Lok Sabha (2009-2014) from Jammu and the same may be repeated in 2014-2019 Lok Sabha as well since it has gone into pre-poll alliance with Congress confining itself to Kashmir Valley again.
There could be no better indicator to show that the approach the National Conference leadership has adopted after 1996 Lok Sabha polls has marginalized the party. It does not now dare to fight elections from Jammu and Ladakh regions. This must worry those in National Conference who had been often claiming to be the representatives of all the three regions of the state. Dr. Farooq Abdulla certainly is one among them. National Conference has been reduced from a major State level party ( Nearly 60 MLAs in the Legislative Assembly in 1996 elections out of 87 ) to a local party by her own leadership.
Present stalwarts of National Conference may not find the Lok Sabha seats that important for power sharing but the October 2014 Assembly elections too will be worth no solace for them in case they do not change their policies. No doubt going by the environment, as has been created in the Kashmir Valley after 1996, Indian National Congress is not going to get simple majority on its own in the J&K Legislature atleast in next 2 to 3 elections. But even parties like National Conference, inspite of their having maintained Kashmir Valley centric policies all these years, will always be short of even half of the numbers worth dictating to their coalition partners. Well continue to see GOP suffering humiliations as it has been suffering all through 2008-2014 period.
In 2002 elections National Conference suffered a drubbing in Jammu province and Dr Farooq Abdullah, in a conversation with me soon afterwards, expressed his annoyance with the people of Jammu region. Position in 2008 elections was again not that good .The forecasts for 2014 elections too are not rosy for NC either.
Among other things THE CONSTITUTION OF JAMMU AND KASHMIR (TWENIY-NINTH AMENDMENT) ACT, 2002 (23rd April- 2002) and Section-49 of J&K Constitution surely did reduce the goodwill of National conference outside Kashmir Valley. And in Kashmir Valley PDP has risen to challenge National Conference in the race for Kashmir centric approach.
So, it is high time for National Conference to do a serious rethinking while drawing the election Manifesto for 2014-elections, more particularly keeping in view Oct 2014 legislative assembly polls.
As said earlier it may not directly help NC for Lok Sabha April/ May polls but would surely make its coalition partner to feel obliged during Lok Sabha elections and to be under pressure during Assembly elections in Oct 2014. NC leadership need to consider certain points before drafting 2014 poll menfesto
1.Moving a constitution amendment bill in the legislature for amending Section-47 ( sub section-2 and sub- section-3 ) of J&K Constitution for undoing the restrictions imposed by J&K (29th amendment) Act 2002 as regards constitution of Delimitation Commission for single member Assembly segments in J&K Legislative Assembly.
2. Moving a Bill in the Assembly amending Section-49 of J&K Assembly to also include Political Reservation in Legislature for Schedule Tribe ( ST) along with the Schedule Caste (SC) .
3.Taking possible alternative measures to Section-4 Sub Section-2 Clause-b of J&K Representation of People Act 1957 for re-distribution ( that have presently over stayed in one area for more than 3 elections) of constituencies reserved for the Schedule Castes
4. (a) Impressing upon the Union for Delimiting the Lok Sabha Seats concerning J&K and increasing the seats from 6 to 8 keeping in view that Jammu region has nearly 13000 sq km area per MP, Kashmir Region has about 5300 sq Km area per MP and Ladakh region has much more.
There could exist a parliamentary constituency with just around 10 to15000 voters in India because of topography/ terrain.
4. (b) J&K has 11.9 % ST population and pushing for reserving 1 Lok Sabha seat for ST.
5. Implementation of the recommendations of the Tara Chand Cabinet sub Committee on reorganisation of Administrative units on priority.
6. Setting up commission for examining the suggestions made for carving new districts / demands of people areas like Bani/Basoli, Billawar;Nowshera/Sunderbani/Kalakot, Akhnoor, Buddal/Mendar;Mohore/Gool; Ramnagar; Bhaderwah/Thathri/Gandoh; Gulabgarh/Paddar; Hiranagar, R.S.Pura; Kupwara, Baramulla, Kargil (Zanskar (234 Km from Distt. HQ which remain cutoff for almost 6-7 month to heavy snowfall/closure of Karrgil- Padam road.), Leh – Nubra, Changthang and Sha ( Rupso Valley / Tsomoriri Lake/ Korzok Village is nearly 240 Kms. from Leh at 14000 Ft ; Dhahan ( WARMER THAN Leh) is situated 163 km from Leh-
(Anjaw District in Arunachal Pradesh had population around 21089 only in 2011 and Lahul Spiti HP has 31564 ); and like for carving out more new Revenue Districts that were left uncovered during the exercise done in 2006.
In August 1947 J&K State had five districts ( Jammu, Kathua, Udhampur, Reasi and Mirpur ) and two Jagirs( Poonch and Chenani ) in Jammu province. Whereas the Kashmir region had three districts (Anantnag, Baramulla and Muzaffarabad ). After that in greater public interest 2.5 districts of Kashmir Valley were increased to ten districts but five districts of Jammu region are limited to only 10 districts.
7. Initiating process for setting up a university, one medical college and one engineering college in Ladakh region.
8. Approaching union government for grant of 75% concession in air fare to students from Ladakh region pursuing PG and professional degree courses in government colleges outside Ladakh.
9.Initiating process for undoing discrimination being done under Permanent Resident Laws / rules with the women of J&K and the 1947 refugees from West Pakistan (some of whom were even allowed to possess and cultivate the lands then occupied by them under Government of J&K notification No.578-C 0/5 1954 of 7.5.1954 , State Cabinet’s decision No. 9578-C of 1954 ), either by invoking Section-8 and Section-9 of J&K Constitution or by suitably amending the legislations without having to amend the J&K Constitution. And where ever possible through executive orders like amending the Jammu & Kashmir Civil Services, Classification, Control and Appeal Rules and orders as regards admission to professional colleges.
10. Impressing upon GOI to notify for all India registration of families of People displaced from Pakistan controlled areas of J&K ( named as Displaced Persons vide order No. 1476-C of 1950 dated 16.12.1950 s/d Sheikh Mohd Abdullah ) and properties thereof; and consider payment of claims at today prices.
Daya Sagar is social activist and senior columnist based in Jammu: Feedback [email protected]
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