Thanks BJP for giving us something to entertain in name of elections.‘Insanity : doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’……….. Albert Einstein
His oft repeated phrase ‘ Ye Kahie Gauv’( rendered in loose translation it means how much it fetches for? Or how can you explain it) unravels many a dilemma and at the same time enthralls us with his kooky behavior. Just a chance encounter with the unconventional odd person of our village, Sulla Sa’ab, and he bellowed all his joy and rage out. Some one pricked him, ‘election… vote’. ‘ I too will become MLA.. Minister, he grumbled. ‘ Vote for me’, I will give you Laltin (kerosene lamp), he promised. Pointing to me he said benignly, ‘ You too will have the one’. Then he sprang up and dusting off his Pheran (over coat) roared ‘Zindabad…. Zindabad… Sulla Sa’ab Zindabad’. Whisper anything, any issue, but don’t forget cotton to plug your ears with. After frothing with all his ‘wisdom’, he sums it up in his usual refrain, Ye Kahie Gauv.
This one-answer-for-all-questions that our eccentric man is offering freely and kind-heartedly to our village folk puts them in good humor and, to an extent, relieve them of many anxieties. Taken in a broader political perspective, that kind of prescription the rulers in Delhi too believes would cure them of all the ailments it suffers in Kashmir. Elections, at whatever level and in whatever conditions, they have picked up as a tonic to massage their ego and justify their claim on Kashmir. Had Srinagar chapter of BJP got a clue of this ‘politically conscious nationalist’ of our village, they would have reveled in joy in having one more name added to the ‘glittering’ list of candidates ‘won unopposed’!
The Home Minister of India, Rajnath Singh, has claimed that ninety percent people in Kashmir are ‘keen’ to participate in poll process. And when asked on BJP candidates getting elected unopposed to local bodies election, Singh referred to West Bengal Panchayat elections and said 43 per cent candidates there also won unopposed. ‘Such things are not uncommon’, he added.
What are the parameters to judge people in Kashmir are ‘keen’ to take part in the elections? Their complete involvement in the entire process. Their passion to get represented the manner the majority likes. Their unrestricted urge, the keenness to be a part of participatory democracy. That stimulates them to come out of their homes and be counted. Democracy draws its legitimacy from the volunteer participation, from the sanctity of the mandate. Where elections are held in vacuum or forced on unwanted people, it is nothing but mockery of democracy.
Yes, West Bengal or other states might throw some unopposed candidates, but they are the ones who are prominent in their localities. They have both place and face value and flaunt it with all pride. Their rival candidates are overawed of their mass support base. Can this all be applied on the present scenario in Kashmir? The comparison between BJP candidates in Kashmir and the candidates of the Trinamul Congress in West Bengal is too ridiculous, too nauseating. The former is conspicuous by its absence in Kashmir, the latter has won overwhelming majority in the assembly and in civic and panchayat elections. Even the two Kashmir-based Delhi’s lackeys, the NC and the PDP, are not in the fray. The indifferent and disinterested attitude of the people towards the whole poll process makes it total sham. What kind of ‘representation’ it is. A BJP candidate is nominated from the bunkered shelters in Srinagar and second day people read him won unopposed . Is there any commonality?
A look at the figures shows how much people are unconcerned and dismissive of the entire exercise. Of the total 624 municipal council wards in the Kashmir valley, 177 wards have no nominations at all, while as in 215 wards ‘candidates’ have ‘won unopposed’. It means they have only themselves to ‘represent’. Calculate the ratio, it turns out that out of 624 wards 392 wards would not go to polls and in only 232 seats there will be contest. Further analyzed, there will be mere 37 percent wards for contest, the remaining 63 per cent wards will have no contest at all. What a ‘ participatory democracy’ Kashmiris are lured to. The feudal lords, during their autocratic rule, too were fond of playing such gimmicks. I wonder how would have past masters of acerbic political satire, Orwellian and Kafka viewed on the fantasy of ‘enriching democracy at grass roots’? What was the need of investing so heavily in money and manpower on the bizarre display. When 63 per cent wards going uncontested would not disfigure the face of democracy, why bother about remaining 37 per cent wards going to polls? At least the ‘Nation India’ could have been spared of this extravagance and energy, especially at a time when value of rupee continues to fall. But when a party finds its popularity graph is showing the downward trend, it is when it looks dangerous. The party interests takes pre-eminence to national interests. And Kashmir, is one of the many arrows in its quiver.
Playing Kashmir BJP aims to seek and build political fortunes in rest of India where five state assembly and general elections are to be held in next two to six months respectively. The narrative BJP wants to create is this: “ look we have achieved victory in the valley, where we were vilified as villains and treated as pariah. The ‘ crown’ is now ours. India lies in safer hands till we are in power”. It will also, like its predecessor Congress did earlier, use these elections as demonstration of faith of people of Kashmir on Indian democracy in world fora.
But how long will Delhi lull in self delusion. The world community, in contrary to India’s stated position on Kashmir, is showing concern of the Kashmir issue in more vocal expressions (UNHRC report) and the space in Kashmir is getting squeezed more deeply and broadly for pro-Indian parties. In such a situation sticking to old failed nostrums cannot cure the festering sore called Kashmir. This one-tick-pony is not going to work out. The forced elections—even boycotted by some other Indian national parties, besides NC and PDP— against which the people here are completely alienated of, are bound to widen the trust deficit. The wrong policies and priorities are losing India even its ponies that it whipped nastily for its interests.
Few days after I had a second chance encounter with the Sula Sa’ab. This time he was bursting in laughter, leaping up and down. His lips, teeth and loose dress splashed with Naswar smoke. Spotting me, he yelled, ‘ I have won.. Take this (Naswar case)’ as he flung it up with his tattered slipper. The villagers cried, long live Sula Sa’ab! Our Minister!