By not announcing assembly polls for Jammu and Kashmir along with parliamentary elections for the entire country including in this state, the government has confirmed that its handling of Kashmir is extremely queer and not based on principles or ground realities but on political expediency. The concept and purpose of democratic elections is to provide representation and governance to the people in a democracy. The exercise is thus linked to the need of the public and this forms the most significant criteria for holding elections. Like many other states, the assembly elections to Jammu and Kashmir are due in view of the prolonged governor’s and president’s rule in the state. While the other states are going for simultaneous holding of both assembly and parliamentary polls, such an arrangement has been set aside for Jammu and Kashmir on grounds of security reasons, an argument which is untenable.
The Chief Election Commission while making the announcement for elections on Sunday chose to skirt the impact of overall security scenario of the state including the law and order situation within due to insurgency in the Valley and communally volatile situation in rest of the state as well as the tense border situation. Instead he spoke essentially about the difficulty of providing security to multiplicity of candidates if the elections to the state assembly were to be held along with Lok Sabha polls. The number of contestants in assembly polls are much less than panchayat polls. If the latter could be provided security, why not for assembly polls. Also, the simultaneous polls in Jammu and Kashmir reduce the financial, administrative and security burden in many ways. But if security is still concerned to be a bottleneck, it needs to be borne in mind that assembly elections for the state which can pave way for the formation of government and provided day to day governance are a much more crucial need for the people than sending representatives to the Lok Sabha. The idea of holding parliamentary polls is more suitable for the national mainstream parties in an extremely competitive season where even single digit numbers such as Jammu and Kashmir’s six parliamentary seats assume a greater significance. Clearly then the very purpose of this democratic exercise is being defeated even before it can be held because it is not be visualized from the point of view of the electorate but those who are in the race for ruling the country.
Democratic elections ensure participation of people in the process of governance through a three-tier structure of parliament, legislature and local bodies. While Jammu and Kashmir would be going in for parliamentary polls in April, the panchayat elections were held in the state about three months ago. It is only the middle and the most crucial rung of governance that is left completely missing. While all three rungs of governance are important to ensure democratic functioning in any part of the country, it may be emphasized that the legislative elections are far more significant not only in view of their ability to provide a state level government that can live up to regional aspirations of the people and their needs, in a troubled state like Jammu and Kashmir, it also fulfills the need of acting as a buffer between the disenchanted people and the Government of India. The state government unceremoniously fell after coalition partner, BJP, also the ruling party in the Centre, pulled the rug and ever since the state has been under the prolonged spell of governor’s rule even as till the Pulwama attack last month, the governor had been repeatedly maintaining that the militancy related situation in Kashmir is improving. However, despite such assurances, there was no attempt to start assembly polls.
The governor, in fact, scuttled all attempts at formation of an otherwise unimaginable alliance between two political adversaries National Conference and PDP along with Congress by hurriedly announcing the dissolution of the assembly. He later proceeded with the panchayat and municipal polls, which no doubt are important, but betrayed the double standards at play and also the methodical madness with respect to elections. Equally important is the question of authenticity of elections. The recent panchayat elections in Kashmir were said to be a ghost elections with unknown candidates in fray. The polling in some stations was abysmally low and 1600 seats saw no contest. Cosmetic elections with low participation does not fulfill the needs of democratic elections. Jammu and Kashmir is not unfamiliar with a tradition of fraud elections but the present exercise has become a mockery bigger than all such farcical processes in the past.