Election boycott calls have lost their relevance

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The general elections in India are underway. The first phase of polling began in the first week of April and after many rounds of polls, the final results of this mammoth exercise will be declared on May 16, when a new Govt will come to power in Delhi. The election campaign this year has been very hectic and even polarizing and most major political parties have spent a lot of money on their campaigns. The campaign has been high decibel and what has added to the drama of this process is an ever growing electronic and social media which reports and magnifies each event, howsoever insignificant it maybe. This campaign, especially by the BJP has seen advertising and marketing blitzkrieg which has never been witnessed in any earlier Indian election.

Kashmiris, as usual faced the old dilemma: to vote or not to vote. The Hurriyat Conference (G) had given a call to boycott elections. In the first round of elections in the Anantnag constituency, which went to the polls on 24th of this month, about 28% voting was reported. It is a very low voting percentage given that during the last Assembly and parliamentary elections, higher voter turnout was recorded. It was also widely believed that given the relatively lesser violence in the lat few years, this election would see a higher voter turnout. But going by the first round of elections in the valley, it doesn’t seem that the things are going to improve dramatically. In the complex situation that Kashmir is in, it is very difficult to pinpoint exactly why such low voter turnout happened in the first round of elections. But one could possibly attribute it to two main reasons. Firstly just before the voting was to take place, there were a few incidents of violence in the Pulwama district. In one unfortunate incident in Tral, a Sarpanch Mr Gh Nabi Mir and his son Firdous were killed when unidentified gunmen barged into their house in the night and sprayed bullets on them. Another sarpanch Mohammad Amin Pandith belonging to the PDP was also killed in Pulwama district. With hardly any security, the Sarpanches seem to be sitting ducks and are very vulnerable to such kind of violence, especially during election time.

Secondly the incumbent Govt led by the National Conference has been seen as  very inefficient Govt by the people in the valley. Its indifference to people’s day today problems borders on hubris. A lot of expectations were vested in Omar Abdullah who being a young Chief Minister was expected to bring in fresh ideas and also lead a Govt which would be less corrupt. But during these last five years under this administration, Kashmir has not only seen a bloodbath in the first two years, but also a worsening of infrastructure, education and healthcare.

Kashmiris never expected the Kashmir issue to be resolved by being a part of the electoral process, but by voting a Govt to power through the ballot, Kashmiris expected that their daily issues would be taken care of. But that was not to be. The separatists on their part should also stop using the failed tactics of election boycotts. However low turnout elections would witness, a Govt would be formed anyway. In 1996, the National conference came to power, when sub ten percent voting was recorded in the valley. Separatists need to realize the folly of such tactics and come out with a more clear and pragmatic plan of action. It is also sad to notice that many innocent Kashmiris have lost their lives even during this. What adds to the agony is that hardly any condemnations have been voiced against these killings. It should be left to people whether they go out to vote or not. No political formation should have any say in that.

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