Uncertainty Over Assembly Polls

WITH the Election Commission of India (ECI) deferring the deadline for the final publication of electoral rolls in Jammu and Kashmir to November 25, it looks almost certain that the Assembly elections won’t take place this year during the four-month harsh winter that would follow. So, in that case, the union territory is likely to have an election in April-May next year. But will the polls even be held next year? The doubts are now growing about such a prospect. For one, the centre has shown little keenness to hold polls in J&K. The exercise has got deferred due to a series of steps taken to reorganize the erstwhile state following the withdrawal of Article 370 in August 2019. Though revision of electoral is the last such exercise, it remains to be seen if it will be followed up with the polls.

J&K has not had an elected government since June 2018 when Governor’s rule was imposed after the PDP-led coalition government lost its majority following the withdrawal of support by the BJP. The last three years have witnessed a drastic political makeover of the state-turned-union territory, so much so that in many aspects, the current J&K bears little resemblance to what it was pre-August 2019.

Delimitation Commission which enhanced the number of Assembly seats in the Union Territory from 83 to 90 has altered the electoral map of the union territory. It has granted six of the seven new seats to Jammu division and only one to Kashmir.  This has raised the political weight of Jammu division relative to Kashmir Valley. This could very well pave the way for a future chief minister who is from Jammu, a longstanding political plank of the BJP.

There is hope that the elections would lead to the restoration of statehood. The centre has already made it clear that statehood would be granted only after an elected government is formed, staying short of giving a timeframe. So, this could take a longer time than expected. New Delhi has indicated it would see the performance and behaviour of the elected government before it decides to restore statehood. It is expected that a government led or influenced by the BJP could pave the way for a faster return to statehood than a non-BJP government. But, for now, this is all in the future. All we can hope for now is that the elections are announced earlier than later.

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