In the war of wits, New Delhi has finally outwitted the so-called Kashmir mainstream. With Chief Electoral Officer announcing four-phase poll schedule for civic bodies in Jammu and Kashmir, the suspense and the political uncertainty on this issue is over. In a way, it is anti-climax for National Conference and PDP, which believed these elections to be deferred following their announcement of boycott by linking the democratic exercise to Article 35A.
Seen in the backdrop of NC and the PDP contesting elections to LAHDC Kargil, despite the position on Article 35A in the Supreme Court remaining same, linking the upcoming polls to this sensitive issue was strategically a wrong move. They should have been forthright and candid enough to say that the situation was not conducive in the Valley for holding these elections. This would have carried some weight and retained their credibility. Who doesn’t know in Kashmir that the PDP is crumbling under the baggage of its tie-up with the BJP in forming coalition government in 2015 and the NC is feeling perplexed over Dr Farooq Abdullah’s posturing and sloganeering of Bharat Mata Ki Jai in New Delhi during the prayers meeting held to pay tribute to Atal Bihari Vajpayee. As per ground reports, the cadre of the two parties were feeling quite apprehensive about their safety and security.
By linking boycott to Article 35A, first by the NC and subsequently by the PDP, the so-called Kashmir mainstream has made this constitutional proviso purely Kashmir centric. This is going to boomerang and influence the judicial process on this issue. That the people of Jammu and Ladakh regions are not in favour of the continuation of Article 35A will be stamped by the electors participating in the grass roots level democratic exercise.
The PDP and the NC have erred in believing that they were indispensable in any political process in Kashmir. Governor Satya Pal Malik made it emphatically clear a few hours ahead of the announcement poll schedule that there were people outside the political spectrum, who wanted civic bodies and Panchayats to be in place for percolation of funds and decision making powers at ground zero. This is indicative of some people joining the fray in the Valley. Number of votes polled does not matter. If Farooq Abdulah of a principal political party of the Valley could step in Lok Sabha with 48,555 votes, less than half of the seven per cent votes polled during the April 2017 by-election to Srinagar Parliamentary Constituency, why can’t the corporators, councilors and ward members with symbolic voting?
Kashmir has a pretty old history of representatives getting elected unopposed or with paltry votes. In almost all elections to Legislative Assembly post 1996, several constituencies in Srinagar, Sopore, Baramulla and Anantnag have witnessed very low polling. Since the civil elections are confined to urban areas of the Valley, much could not have been expected even if the PDP and NC had decided to contest. The duo is irrelevant in Kashmir’s political landscape. No tears will get rolled for their absence in the polls, therefore.
The boycott of the PDP and NC in the upcoming elections has unnerved their cadre in Jammu. The aspirants to Jammu Municipal Corporation, Municipalities, Town and Notified Area Committees had put out larger than life size hoardings seeking votes. These were overnight removed from various squares and roads following boycott calls by their masters in the Valley. Their participation as proxies is fraught with limited scope, as their leanings and allegiances to respective political outfits are hugely documented on various social media sites. It is a precarious and peculiar situation for them.
Sensing the Catch-22 situation, in which the Jammu rank and file of the PDP and the NC are caught, Minister of State in the PMO Dr Jitendra Singh has taken a dig at the Jammu-based activists of these parties the other day, saying “they are feeling frustrated by the decision imposed on them by their Kashmir-centric leadership”.
“The Jammu based activists of these parties had been, for the last several years, nurturing dreams of becoming Corporators and Councilors”, Dr Jitendra Singh said and gave a clarion call to all the Jammu-based activists of National Conference and PDP to join BJP and support the local body electoral process without losing any time.
“We shall find out a suitable role for them”, he said, which speaks volumes about the Jammu based activists of the PDP and the NC, who have no voice of their own. They have to tune to, “His Masters Voice”. The HMV logo is still afresh in public minds.
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© 2017 State Times Daily Newspaper