IN his Independence Day speech, the prime minister Narendra Modi said that the preparations are on to hold Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir. This is seen as an indication of the seriousness of the centre to hold elections in the union territory in near future. Only prerequisite is the report of the delimitation commission which is set to enhance the number of the seats. But after the PM’s commitment to hold polls soon, it is expected that the delimitation commission would complete its task within the next few months. The PM also praised the holding of last year’s District Development Council elections.
But the people in Jammu and Kashmir would be most interested in the Assembly polls and to this end would want the delimitation commission to give its report soon. Incidentally, the commission visited Kashmir in July in the wake of the much hyped meeting of the prime minister Narendra Modi with the J&K leaders. The meeting turned out to be more of an interaction of the PM and the home minister Amit Shah with the J&K leaders than an effort to resolve the issues currently facing the former state. Both the PM and the HM stayed true to their ongoing approach towards J&K. They were not inclined even to restore statehood in the near term. Instead, the statehood, it was made clear, would follow “at an appropriate time,” once the delimitation exercise has been completed and the elections within the union territory framework have been held. This could set the stage for the restoration of statehood. But no one in J&K is sure if the statehood to be granted would be full or a truncated one where the real power would vest in the governor.
Significantly, the PM didn’t talk of J&K statehood even in his August 15 speech. He only reiterated the line toed by him during his meeting with J&K leaders. Over the last two years, New Delhi has gone ahead with its project in Kashmir with a single minded devotion. It has passed order after order and tinkered with and made changes to the entire edifice of the existing socio-political structure. It is, however, difficult to believe that the centre would restore statehood soon. That’s until perhaps the union government is certain that its new laws for the union territory can be undone by a future dispensation. So, there’s likely going to be more wait till the UT has been fully insulated against such a prospect.
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