Tuesday, February 25, 2020
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U L B Election - Bag of mixed messages

B L Saraf

Election is an essential attribute of democracy and an important tool to forge a participatory relationship between the citizenry and their governors . However, in Kashmir they carry a different story which , unfortunately , doesn’t tell an encouraging tale . Starting with elections of 1951 – held to frame the Constituent Assembly – till 1987, that formed INC / NC coalition government , election process , barring 1977 ,hasn’t lived up to the desired purpose . On the contrary , it has generated lot of negatively which has resulted in chaos and turmoil . Some say , it is the after effect of 1987 Assembly ‘colored ‘ elections that people in the Valley have developed love for a bullet in place of the ballot.

So , whenever we talk of elections in the state disturbing ideas cross the mind . Latest U L B election is no different . This election too has sent conflicting signals which both the contending parties - GOI and the separatists - would do well to take note of . It seems to be a pattern that for people in the state there is nothing unusual to indulge in the exercise of contradictions . How aptly said , what could be true of J& K on any given day opposite of it would ring quite convincing the very moment ! The ongoing election process has confirmed this view .

The Central Government in general and BJP in particular has a message in the following statics . Out of total 624 municipal councils wards in Kashmir valley 177 wards have no nominations . While as in 215 wards candidates have won unopposed . On calculations, it turns out that out of 624 wards 392 wouldn’t go to the polls and in only 232 seats will be a contest . In percentage terms it means that only 37 % wards will have election while as 67 % of them will go unrepresented . The areas which went to the polls saw below 5% voting , on average .

In run up to the poll the Home Minister , RajnathSingh made a statement that ninety percent people in Kashmir were ‘keen’ to participate in the ULB and Panchayt elections process . When asked that BJP candidates are getting elected unopposed to the local bodies , HM referred to West Bengal Panchayat elections and said 43 % candidates there also won opposed . ‘ Such things are not uncommon ‘, he added .
We do not know what parameters were employed to come to the conclusion that ninety percent people in Kashmir were ‘keen ‘ to participate in the local bodies elections . H M must be told that it was his party that went to the Court to challenge the unopposed election of the Trinimool candidates and castigated the CM Mamta Banerji for manipulating these elections . Till now , BJP has not accepted those election results . We must remember that Trinimool Congress has effective presence all over W Bengal and has stood the electoral test dozens of times so far . How one wishes same could be said of BJP’s presence in Kashmir ! Under these circumstances to compeer two situations is a bit farfetched . No wonder , there are a few takers of the H M’s statement .

BJP and its mangers will do a great service to the nation and its own cause if they understand that by packing of ULBs to Kashmir , made of the displaced persons living at present in plains of the country with a claim to serve locals living in far flung areas in Kashmir , they are only deluging themselves and doing a great disservice to the nation’s larger cause . National interest is always paramount and supersedes that of the political party .

These days words ‘ constitutional morality ‘ are heard ad nauseam , thanks to the Supreme Court . We know that constitutional morality is the only method by which we can govern the diverse country like India and manage our differences . Apart from that the basic concept of the “ constitutional morality ‘ is defined by a citizen’s belief in participatory democracy . One wonders whether we could fit in the elections held so far in the Valley in the concept of participatory democracy ? We need participatory democracy to follow ‘ constitutional morality’ principle , both in letter and spirit .

We hope the Central government will heed these signals from Kashmir . This election has once again shown that Kashmiris stand alienated . It is heartening to note that Governor Malik has stressed the need to eliminate militancy rather than killing of the militants . How can one separate militancy from a militant is the question ? We trust the Governor has an answer to it and would put that to the practice . In any case that is the right approach . Kashmir Valley may be a one portion of the J&K state . Whatever one may say the reality , however , is that the Valley has become a barometer used to gauge the political temperature of the whole state . Kashmir is the prism through which the world sees affairs of J &K . In politics perception is treated as truth that travels fast . At least that perception needs to be managed .

These elections ,nonetheless , carry a far more telling message for the separatists ,who boast of their influence across the state - especially in the areas where Muslims are in majority . This ULB elections has thrown them off the pedestal . The message that has come from the very high voting percentagege of these ‘ Muslim majority’ areas outside the Valley must have come as a rude shock to the separatists . Glaring message has come from Banihaal town – a place more aligned to Valley – politically and socially . Banihal town ended the day with 69% voting to elect ward member to the local Municipality . Rajouri and Poonch in Pirpanchal region : Doda ,Kishtwar , Badharwah and Ramban in Chenab Valley : Kargil in Ladakh region and URI in Kashmir Division have witnessed more that 70% voting in these elections . The huge voter turnout in these areas gives a big lie to the separatist’s claim that their appeal holds sway across the state . This election has , indeed , been a mirror for the Hurriyat to see their shrunken area of influence .

The Separatists should know that their politics of hatred has resulted only in death of young and bright , whom Kashmiris needed to live for their future . It is time of introspection for them .

NC and PDP should also take a lesson . Overall reports of the election must open their eyes to the reality that their opportunistic posturing has no takers . For these political parties it is an opportunity to redeem their credibility . They should sail only in one boat . Choice is theirs .

(The author is a Former Principal District & Sessions Judge. Feedback- [email protected] )

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