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Kashmir back to Old Ways?

The District Development Council elections in Jammu and Kashmir are kicking off on November 28. They are supposed to be the first exercise to gauge the people’s mood in the union territory after the abrogation of Article 370 in August last year ended Jammu and Kashmir’s special status. It also divided the state into two union territories.
But the way things are progressing creates doubt whether the democratic exercise will have credibility. Reports say that candidates put up by opposition parties, especially those belonging to the People’s Alliance for the Gupkar Declaration, PAGD, are being placed in protection or safe homes immediately after filing their nomination papers.

PAGD constituents allege that their candidates are not being allowed to campaign while those belonging to the BJP, which heads the ruling alliance at the Centre, are moving about freely with security cover. There are increasing signs that the BJP is getting flustered by the PAGD decision to contest the DDC elections. What is more, the PAGD and the Congress have entered into a seat sharing arrangement, which is expected to post a tough challenge to the BJP in the Kashmir valley.

The BJP was perhaps hoping that the seven party PAGD amalgam would boycott the elections in protest against the end of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, leaving the field open to it. This would have allowed the BJP to claim wide spread support in a place, where it is virtually on the periphery. The decision of the seven party PAGD to contest the elections in an informal tie-up with the Congress has put paid to the BJP’s hopes of a cake walk in the local bodies elections. With it, the hope of legitimising the end of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status by claiming public support for the move has gone for a toss.

If no steps are taken to permit opposition parties to campaign for their candidates, a serious prospect will emerge of Jammu and Kashmir going back to the old era of rigged elections. This will be a great dis-service to democratic institutions not only in Jammu and Kashmir but the whole of India. Hopefully, the ruling dispensation at the Centre will wake up in time and facilitate a fair and free exercise of the people’s mandate in the DDC elections.

 

(Political Analyst)
 


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