J&K’s major mainstream parties like National Conference, the PDP and Congress have decided to boycott the upcoming Block Development Council polls. This has put a question mark over the entire exercise. However, the Election Commission has already announced the dates for the elections. But in the absence of the three major mainstream parties which between them control more than two-thirds of the electoral space in Valley and also wield a significant political clout in Jammu and Ladakh regions, the BDC polls are unlikely to be a success. This has also created a difficult situation for the governments in the state and New Delhi which cannot make the polls appear credible if the major parties boycott it.
State government has so far silently watched the evolving scenario, so has the central government. The focus of the government right now is on formulating an elaborate security plan to ensure that the contesting candidates are protected.
However, the state and central governments have so far refused to engage the local parties. There is no talk about releasing the leaders too. Elections were announced with the leaders under detention. This leaves the BJP as the only major party contesting the polls. Congress has demanded release of all political leaders before the BDC polls can be held. State Congress president Ghulam Ahmad Mir, who was himself under detention, has accused the central government of destroying all public institutions. He has also called for deferring the polls until situation returns to normal.
Also, nobody in Kashmir would want an election immediately after the revocation of Article 370. The sense of shock in the Valley from the move is yet to sink in. Shutdown continues and public transport remains off the roads. Though the government has lifted advisory on the tourists visiting the Valley and also post-paid mobiles are being restored from Monday, the situation has to go a long way before it can be called as normal. So, the government should review the decision to hold the BDC polls. Anyway, with all the major political parties boycotting the polls, the exercise will have little credibility.
Government, for now, should concentrate on improving the situation in the Valley. And this can be done by releasing the leaders and lifting the ban on internet. This will bring back the normalcy and allow people to communicate and participate in political activity. Elections will follow naturally from a peaceful situation.
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