EC’ triggers hopes of J&K Assembly polls this year- anytime from now onwards

Prameyanews English

Published By : Prameya News Bureau | March 14, 2024 IST

Kashmir

Arun Joshi

At last a strong possibility of Assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir this year has surfaced as the Election Commission of India committed that it is duty-bound to hold the polls, though the timings would be decided later . This is a great moment for the people of Jammu  and Kashmir  who had been longing to hear about the Assembly polls now almost for six years.

The most  significant part of thus announcement made by Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar in Jammu on Wednesday  coincided with  conclusion of the Election Commission’s three-day visit of Jammu and Kashmir . That gave an idea that the ground situation in the Union Territory  was conducive for the Assembly polls .

The Election Commission  despite hinting at the possibility of holding Assembly polls in J&K – before, simultaneous with Lok Sabha polls or after that -shows that  somewhere down the line it has its own reservations about the timing , though it is bound by  deadline of September 30th this year, set by the Supreme Court . The apex court had  directed the Election Commission to hold the Assembly polls in J&K by the end of September 30th at the time of delivering  judgment on Article 370 . The SC had dismissed all petitions challenging the August 5, 2019 decision of the government  of doing away with the constitutional provision that granted special  status and  privileges to the erstwhile state , before dividing it into two union territories . Ladakh was carved out as a separate union  territory from J&K state, and the status of J&K  status  too was downgraded from a state to union territory.

Ever since the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019, the  whole dynamics of the electoral politics has changed in this Himalayan territory . It led to several changes – delimitation of fresh constituencies – raising Assembly’s strength to 90 , and frequent revision of rolls .The voters strength is billed at 86.9 lakh . These  changes with the  narrative that  Jammu and  Kashmir has been liberated of chokehold of the terrorism , and opened new  vistas for  development and opportunities . This has placed J&K in the middle of contrasts – pre and post- abrogation of Article 370. This has also attempted to erase the part of the history , and it is ironical that all the incidents and events of pre-Article 370 era are narrated in the most negative terms, even the elections .The 1987 polls which were alleged to have been rigged and triggered  militancy in Kashmir, have been injected into  political narratives to show the regional political partiy -National Conference, and Congress in poor light. It was the coalition government of NC and Congress  in J&K , and the Congress government at the  Centre when 1987 polls, by word for the  rigged polls and trigger of terrorism in J&K , took place.

Now as and when the Election Commission will decide about the  exact schedule for the polls , it will be the first  major poll in Jammu and Kashmir in the post- Article 370 abrogation era , which is now close to five years.. Secondly, it  will be the first poll in the union territory of J&K. This would  also be the first when the clashing narratives on Article 370 will get played out .

All the major political parties that had been asking for polls in J&K have an additional responsibility , for they would  have to vow to preserve and further the normalcy achieved in this erstwhile troubled region  since August 2019 , and also  commit that they would  bring better rule than the one in existence in J&K- that is central rule  un on the support system of bureaucracy . This makes the elections more difficult for the political parties .

At the same time , there would be an interest in knowing as to how BJP will preserve its narrative that abrogation of Article 370 was the best thing to happen to Jammu and Kashmir and the rest of the country . But in Kashmir , there are dissenting views .  But it is just the beginning of the political battles ahead , and  election commission’s announcement of the polls this year has woken up parties out  to the challenges ahead.

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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