Saturday, June 19, 2021
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DDC Elections - Revival of political process

B L Saraf

We are in the beginning of winter season , experiencing mild cold in plains and a bitter one in the mountains . Kashmir Valley is shivering due to the weather severity . Nonetheless , the political heat generated by the DDC elections is making people feel a bit cozy . The UT is witnessing a pleasant spectacle .A great churning is going on in the political ambience of the erstwhile state of J &K which , for the reasons very well known , lay stale and dormant for quite a long period . The ongoing election to the District Development Councils ( DDCs ) has become a stirring agent . After a long lull , political activity of sorts is underway in J & K . It must be said to the credit of the process that it has created a pull so strong as to suck in all those political elements which had stayed away from the Panchayat and Urban Local Bodies elections ,held three years back .
All political forces , including NC , PDP , PC and the national parties , in the UT , are in a race to reach the DDCs, albeit , through ballot papers . If not for anything else , it is for sheer survival of the Kashmir centric political parties that they had to take a plunge . Or else , in the scenario likely to emerge , theses parties would find themselves relegated to foot notes of state’s history . Moreover , it is good for the health of the democracy that the field is not left open for one political party and its surrogates to have a walk over . The participation of the local parties in the election process has made this contest worth its meaning .
The festival of democracy is in full swing in J &K which provides pleasant scene to view . The festivities have percolated down to the villages where people , with gusto , are enjoying to the full . Who wins and who loses , that apart , fairness and political strategy demand that the electorate should not be robbed of the enjoyment of participation .
Many a time before 5th August 2019 , the J &K rulers were asked to look to the structural and operational shortcomings of the Panchayti Raj Act 1989 and incorporate a mechanism which would allow free flow of the benefits to the state people, accruing to the system under 73 and 74 Amendments made to the Constitution Of India . The amendments were aimed at the removal of the weaknesses in the Act and give teeth to the Panchayats . In 2004 and 2011 amendments to the Act were made which , respectively , provided for reservations for women , SC and ST members and creation of State Election Commission . However , nothing moved ahead and the benevolent effect of 73rd and 74rth continued to be denied to the people in J &K .
True Panchayati Raj system meant devolution of power to the Villages . In our case it was denied on the ground that it would create subdivisions , layer within layer and result in overlapping where nobody is clear as to who is in charge . In the situation , the government argued then , the ultimate arbiter would be a bureaucrat and a secretary in the secretariat . Well , that was only a ruse to save the fiefdom of MLAs and the Ministers .
Those who enjoyed state power in the state before 5th August 2019 - now languishing in political wilderness must be ruing their obduracy in heralding in the real and people beneficial changes in the Panchayati Raj system . They displayed same kind of obduracy by refusing basic rights to the West Pakistan Refugees and Valmikis . While continuing to bemoan the constitutional changes brought about by the 5th August 2019 developments - may be for some valid reasons - wonder what will be going through the minds of these people when , now , they are in a race to avail those very benefits accruing under the system which they , in their heyday , denied to the residents of the erstwhile state .
The ongoing DDC elections is one measure , among others, which may ease the situation and provide GOI with an opportunity to turn tide in the Valley and instill some hope in the mind and heart of a common Kashmiri that India does care for his / her democratic rights . That he / she is not an alienated and a forsaken lot . It is understandable that one move may not end the alienation but it would certainly put a stop to the erosion of integrating process . Therefore , a truly fair and transparent election game where each and every contestant -irrespective of his / her party affiliation - has a level playing field is need of the hour . Sometimes it is prudent to subordinate party interests to the bigger national interest . BJP mangers , who are the de-facto rulers in the UT , must care to bear it in mind .
For the Kashmir specific political forces it is imperative that , in anger against a political party , they do not rake up emotive issues which may tend to provide a breeding ground for the “ new age separatists ” and derail them from helping the cause of democracy and national service . Owing allegiance to the Constitution of India ,as they do , these political forces need to be extra cautious with their actions and should refrain from using words which are susceptible to uncalled for and unintended interpretations .
It bodes well that LG Manj Sinha has put in his heart and soul to see the election process goes through well . He has characterized the decision of all the political parties in the UT to take part in these elections as “ a true achievement .” In the given situation , role of LG becomes very important . Being an astute politician – with eyes to the ground -Manj Sinha must rise to the occasion and help people rediscover faith in the democracy . He has demonstrated his honest intentions by his far and wide public outreach . The L G may look into the complaints of the contesting parties in Kashmir that, under the pretext of securing them physically , the candidates opposing BJP and the allied parties are sopped from moving around to campaign and ,thus , held back from their prospective voters . To lend credit to the exercise the fears, real or imaginary , expressed in this regard must be laid to the rest .

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

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