As widely anticipated, the Election Commission of India has decided to not hold the simultaneous Assembly elections alongside Parliament polls in J&K. Thr Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora made it clear that only Lok Sabha elections will be held in the state now. This despite the fact that all J&K political parties had unanimously batted for concurrent Assembly and Parliament polls in the state. But the EC chose to ignore it. It is difficult to see why. Apparently there seems no reason or rationale for the EC to defer the Assembly polls. If the deteriorating security situation was the reason, the elections have been held in the state in even worse conditions. If the state government could hold as grassroots-centric an exercise as Panchayat and urban local bodies polls without any surge in violence and that too in as troubled an area as South Kashmir, there was no reason why Assembly elections could not have been held.
On the contrary, this rules out the security situation as the reason for not holding Assembly polls. The considerations to do this appear other than this. But whatever those considerations are, the decision to further defer Assembly elections have generated a deep sense of unease in Kashmir. Not that the people are keen to have a democratically elected government but that they suspect that the direct central rule in J&K is being prolonged by design. The Governor’s administration has so far taken many decisions which normally should have been beyond its remit. The state Government has thus made people uncomfortable. It is creating a deep sense of disempowerment among a large section of the population which thinks its interests are largely not reflected in the decision-making. So, for once, people seriously wanted an elected government whose decisions take the dominant public opinion and the sentiment on board, which is not the case right now.
Another reason that people wanted simultaneous Assembly and Parliament polls is the sheer amount of disruption they trigger in a conflict-ridden state like J&K.Holding an election keeps the large parts of the state on edge. Together with the modest election campaigning, it is the lingering political conflict over the state that takes centre stage This affects routine life, brings untold suffering to ordinary people and this also sets back the economy. It is for this reason also that the people wanted concurrent elections, a best case scenario under the circumstances. The disruption that had to take place would have taken place only once, not over the entire course of the year. But again the public opinion in the state has been ignored. And this is not a happy state of affairs. This will only further deepen the sense of alienation among the people. Only way, people can be reassured a bit is if the Governor’s administration works to win the confidence of the people rather than further reinforce the suspicions by taking the decisions which don’t enjoy the public support.