The clock refuses to strike “right time” for Assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir even though it has been clocking minutes and hours for the past over five years. This is an irony. the poll schedule remains uncertain. The matters have been further complicated and lost in uncertainty with the Election Commission of India yet again saying that it will choose its own “right time” to announce the polls in J&K.
Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar, while announcing Assembly poll dates for five states – Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Chhattisgarh, and Telangana early this week, said that there were issues of security and other polls. The stress was on the security situation, which of course, has been a critical factor in Jammu and Kashmir since 1989 when the secessionist militancy erupted in Kashmir. Pakistan-backed terrorism that broke the democratic spell in Jammu and Kashmir for almost seven years after the 1989 parliamentary polls where the polling percentage was less than 2 per cent in some of the Kashmir constituencies, continues to stare. It retains the potential to disturb polls or enhance the fear factor preventing voters to queue outside polling booths.
There also is a big backdrop that the Election Commission of India cannot ignore that from 1996 till 2014, Jammu and Kashmir had had all Assembly elections after regular intervals – 1996, 2002, 2008 and 2014 . And the security situation during all these years was not ideal . but the democratic rights of the people were upheld . the elections in J&K , ECI and the Center government should have known is a strategic exercise. The polls are an antidote to the forces of violence , as this brings the people back to the idea of participatory democracy instead of drifting toward the self-destructive ventures, knowingly and unknowingly. The elections fill their space with hope and promise in conflict-ridden places like Jammu and Kashmir. The hope counters terrorism in two ways- ( a) they see that they have their own people who will govern them , and even the worst kind of political leaders are seen as their own on whom they can pin hopes and make them to work for the masses , ( b) it sends a clear message to the anti-national forces within and outside ( Pakistan , in particular) that they repose their full faith in the Indian democracy.
These strategic goals are paramount , and these have become more important against the backdrop of the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, 2019 . The narrative born out of some of the major developments – all out anti-terrorism operations have brought down the number of terrorists to bare minimum , the ecosystem that supported and facilitated them to survive has been dented so much that terrorism has become a dangerous proposition for all the anti-national elements and their nurseries . Consequently, the overall scale of normalcy has gone up , and the people are enjoying normalcy . As per the official claims , the militancy is down to its lowest level in the past three decades, and best optics are offered by thousands of tourists visiting the Union Territory on daily basis. Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha says that 1.7 crore tourists have visited the UT until this time of the year 2023 and it’s all set to cross the last year’s tourist arrival figure of 1.88 crore .
This is by far the best time to have elections . Ask people , they would say it’s right time. The delay in holding polls can cause other problems. That can lead to doubts as to why the elections are not being held . If security situation is par excellence since the abrogation of Article 370, then why the polls which had become a routine exercise since 1996 , be delayed. If the alternative is that the current dispensation should continue with nu dilution of Centre’s powers then there is a need to explain how and why. Good work has been done , and it is time to seek public approval of the good work.
All the Central government functionaries, LG and the BJP leaders at national and UT level have a common refrain that they are ready for polls but the call has to be taken by the ECI. They charge the opposition parties playing with not recognizing the EC’s constitutional role and authority, but is that really so? This question must be answered in the national interest.