Waiting For Polls

WITH Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat over, there was hope that the centre might call Assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir.  But even as we are in 2023, there is no sign that J&K is any closer to holding election. It is still not known whether polls will be held in the upcoming few months or not.

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 four 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.

Many observers in Kashmir are hoping that elections may be held  by April-May. Things on this score, however,  are likely to get clearer in the weeks to come. 2023 will be the last year when the polls could be hoped to be held in the union territory as in 2024, the country is due to hold general elections.

Meanwhile, people in Kashmir are eagerly waiting for the elections, as the exercise is expected to lead to restoration of statehood.  No less than union home minister Amit Shah has made it clear that the statehood of J&K would be restored only after elections are held and a representative government is formed.

As things stand, the situation appears conducive for Assembly elections. Kashmir is calmest compared to the situation in past thirty years.  Also, the BJP’s landslide win in Gujarat has effectively put the saffron party on the road to a third successive triumph in 2024 parliament election. This apparently gives the party confidence that it could continue to control and direct the course of events in J&K.

So, J&K could expect the announcement of Assembly elections in the near future, now that the exercise of drawing up fresh electoral rolls has been completed.  With national elections set to be held in May next year, there are sixteen months within which the exercise could be held. But with every passing month, if the polls are not called, people would start losing hope about the exercise being held during the BJP’s second term as the national ruling party.

This will be especially disappointing to people considering that across the country around ten Assembly elections are scheduled to be held before the national elections. In a sense, there is still hope that the polls would be held in the near future. But for now, all we can do is keep our fingers crossed.

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