Polls Not The Issue In Kashmir  

With the major regional political parties like National Conference and the PDP resolving to boycott the upcoming civic polls in J&K on account of the government’s hostile stance towards Article 35A, the Congress and the BJP have decided to battle it out in the election. On Wednesday, Congress finally announced its decision to take part in the polls. State Congress president Ghulam Ahmad Mir reasoned that boycotting the exercise would be irresponsible as it would give free run to RSS-BJP and other communal forces. Need of the hour, he said, was to stop the RSS-BJP. Earlier the party had adopted an ambiguous approach towards the exercise – albeit,  it didn’t cite the Article 35A as the reason for doing so. On the contrary the party had alluded to the deteriorating security environment which made it difficult to conduct the elaborate exercise like civic polls. Mir has, however, warned that the decision to participate in the polls could be reversed if the security environment deteriorates further and the fairness of the exercise comes under cloud. Incidentally, he also threw his weight behind the protection of Article 35A and said Congress had “got the legal opinion on the issue”.

 The election to Panchayats would be held in 9 phases in November and December. And those to the Municipal Bodies would be conducted in four phases in October. Underlining the all-encompassing nature of the exercise, the election to around 4500 Panchayat Halqas in over 35000 panchayat constituencies will have over 58 lakh electors. This makes it a grassroots exercise which will involve every village and the locality. And considering the abysmal state of the security situation in the Valley, it seems unthinkable that people will be able to participate in the exercise. More so, when police itself has expressed its inability to provide security to all candidates.

 Besides, the decision to hold civic polls doesn’t organically evolve out of the deeply conflict-ridden situation in the state. More so, when the government is neither inclined to address nor acknowledge the issues underpinning this state of affairs. One of these issues is the paranoia in the society about the survival of the Article 35A in the ongoing court case against the constitutional provision.  

 At a time, where the Valley is roiled by the death and destruction on an everyday basis, pretending that the situation is conducive for holding of the municipal bodies’ and panchayat polls is hardly the way to go. It will only trigger more violence and chaos. True, last elections held in 2011 had witnessed a massive participation of the people. But the situation now is vastly different. Alienation and anger runs deep. Government had better address the sources of this disaffection than rush headlong into civic polls.


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