By Arun Joshi
The three-day visit of Union Home Minister Amit Shah to Jammu and Kashmir, first since abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, 2019, which concluded on Monday, has reignited the hope that the Assembly elections would be held in the Union Territory soon. The UT had been waiting for this kind of announcement for years now. With Home Minister’s categorical assurance that “ elections will have to be held”, the political process gaining momentum for the Assembly polls is expected to gain momentum.
Despite the change in the status of J&K from a special status state under Article 370 to the fragmented Union Territory, the Assembly here is seen as the ultimate political voice, given the sensitive and strategic location of the place for over several decades.
Since this was his first visit to the UT, it was being watched quite keenly that how the tough-image bearing Home Minister would connect with the people in J&K, where some quarters not only have reservations about the constitutional changes, and few of them have continued to disrupt peace and development moving in lockstep, by gunning down innocent civilians.
He did not allow the skeptics to have their way, instead he connected with the people, particularly youth who form about one crore of the total 1.30 crore population, with a clear promise that nothing would come in way of their political, social and economic aspirations, and as a first step, he insisted that “ the elections ( to the Assembly) will be held. Elections have to take place.”
He said while interacting with the youth across the Union Territory in a function in Srinagar that was broadcast to the 45,000 youth clubs across J&K. These youth clubs were constituted across the Union territory working at panchayat and village levels, contributing in constructive activities in sanitation, human development and organizing sports activities and interaction on the current affairs with a view to find a way ahead at the initiative of Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha. He has been monitoring the work of these clubs and encouraging their work on almost daily basis.
Home Minister complimented the Lieutenant Governor for such an initiative that has inculcated a sense of inclusiveness among the youth who have shifted their mindset to positiveness, much away from the destruction that they had seen over the decades. He also asked them to take their additional responsibility to take part in the larger political arena. He had the Assembly elections in mind to which he gave an expression in clear words, when he asked them to join the political process at the greater level breaking the monopoly of three families on the power structure in Jammu and Kashmir, by which he meant – Gandhi, Abdullah and Mufti families. These families have shared power in different spells since 1947.
Jammu and Kashmir has been waiting for the Assembly elections for the past over three-and-a-half years. The Assembly was placed under suspended animation after the resignation of the Mehbooba Mufti Government after it was rendered into a minority when its ally BJP withdrew support to it in June 2018. on the plea that the government was not following the agenda of good governance. The Assembly was dissolved on November 21, 2018, within hours after the rival claims by the People’s Conference and PDP-NC combine were made to form the government.
Going by that date, the Assembly elections should have been held by May 2019. But the election commission did not take the call and with the constitutional changes on August 5, 2019, and severe restrictions, the Assembly elections became remote possibility.
With Home Minister reiterating that the “ elections will have to be held” after the Delimitation Commission report comes, the possibility of the polls has re-appeared on the horizon.
About the Author:
Arun Joshi is a senior journalist based in J&K. He has worked with Hindustan Times, Times of India, Indian Express, and The Tribune. He has authored “ Eyewitness Kashmir: Teetering on Nuclear War” and three other books.
This is the personal opinion of the author. The views expressed in this write up have nothing to do with it.