A new ray of hope of J&K Assembly polls in 2024 dawns with visit of ECI

Prameyanews English

Published By : Prameya News Bureau | February 16, 2024 IST

A new ray of hope of J&K Assembly polls in 2024 dawns with visit of ECI

Arun Joshi

The Election Commission of India is visiting Jammu and Kashmir on March 12- 13. This is a music to the ears pf the people of Jammu and Kashmir and the political parties desperately waiting for the Commission to take a call on the Assembly polls last held in 2014 , so that they can get a real-time democracy  J&K . It has brought live hope for the people of the Union Territory that they too may get an opportunity to have their elected government after a gap of almost six years.

This visit is like oasis for the electorate in Kashmir who had their last tryst with the Assembly polls 10 years ago.

Why the visit of the ECI is such a big news? The answer to this question lies in the fact that this erstwhile state / now divided into two UTs of Ladakh and J&K, has been without an elected government since June 2018 that translates into more than five years and eight months. Since then all other states and UTs have had their assembly elections as per schedule- within five years of the elections last held. J&K is the sole exception.

Since the last Assembly elections in November-December 2014, J&K has undergone massive political and situational change. The old landscape of the polls has been replaced by a new one. The new Assembly, as per the delimitation exercises completed in May 2022. Thereafter there have been several revision of electoral rolls, and last updated electoral draft placed the number of voters at 8.93 lakh.  And J&K is a union territory, having 90 seats.  It’s for the first time that nine seats have been reserved for Scheduled Tribes, and it is also for the first time that the Paharis, too, have been included in the ST category, which was available to Gujjars and Bakerwals, nomadic tribes who take their livestock from one place to another during summers and winters. That has created own fissures in the two communities as  Gujjars  and Bakwrwals fear encroachment on their special privileges that come with ST. They are waiting for the government’s assurances of no cut in their jobs, quota in educational institutions to get translated into reality.

The forthcoming visit of the ECI to J&K after a gap of 10 years – last it was on the eve of  2014 Assembly polls . Thereafter there were many  speculations and assurances that the ECI will visit  and decide about the  Assembly polls. That hope never materialized . The dates of the visit  suggest that the simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly polls  were not in the realm of consideration , as the LS polls are expected to be announced by February-end . The March visit would be more of an exploratory one , in which the facts on the ground , in relation to security situation , political parties’ preparedness  and what kind of special arrangements would be needed for the conduct of the Assembly polls.

EC is conscious that its visit has been driven by the December 11, 2023  direction that the  Assembly polls in J&K be held by 30th of September 2024.So, it has to look at all poll-related aspects with extra care as  its visit and what it does in J&K would be under the watch of the nation,. Possibly , the  apex court would be watching all the unfolding developments in run up to polls .

It’s not only that polls  are expected to be held after 10 years , the longest ever gap in the history of J&K, the last gap between the Assembly polls  between  1987 and 1996 was  of nine years . In 1990s the extraordinarily bad situation owing to armed  militancy and  massacres , had  made the government to skip Lok Sabha polls of 1991.

Since the abrogation of Article  370 and  a big change in. the situation – normalcy being  at the core of the new narrative , and an end to the era of high velocity terrorism, combined with windfall of  tourists in 2022 and 2023 – is  considered conducive for allowing the people to choose their elected representatives to the Assembly . This is the hope .

Arun Joshi is author of “Eyewitness Kashmir; Teetering on Nuclear War and senior journalist based in Jammu and Kashmir, writes on South Asian affairs)

Disclaimer: This is the personal opinion of the author. The views expressed in this write-up have nothing to do with www.prameyanews.com

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