New Order Awaited

With NC desperately seeking time to undo the damage done by lackadaisical government response to Kashmirs worst floods, election clarion has already been sound. Shah Abbas analysis how different players react to upcoming elections in post-flood Kashmir    

People lined up for polling in this file pic.
People lined up for polling in this file pic.

Elections in any part of the world may be simply a democratic process but for Kashmir, its people, and even for the policy makers in New Delhi, it is always a special thing of a “special” region.

People of Kashmir vote, boycott and protest against this process since last three decades, and the separatists get booked under PSA, “A Lawless Law” as described by the rights watch dog, Amnesty International.

Unionist politicians try to woo voters with old promises using new terminology.  And in New Delhi, the people at the helm of affairs aim these elections to “integrate” Kashmir.

All this attached to the process of electing 87 lawmakers for six years make Kashmir’s elections an interesting process.  And now the recent devastating floods have added another dimension to the Kashmir elections.

Interestingly, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is the lone voice against conducting assembly elections on time because, “the atmosphere is not conducive”.

Omar heads the coalition government with Congress which believes otherwise clearly exhibiting the strength of alliance between the two.

Omar even warned of election boycott by the people if elections are conducted on time. “Don’t blame me tomorrow if there is no voting in the assembly elections in the Kashmir Valley if these are not deferred,” the Chief Minister said.

But political analysts like Mohammad Syed Malik feel that people this time will vote in great numbers as compared to 2008 assembly elections. NC according to Malik wants the postponement of elections only to get time to reach out to the people and rebuild its image among the masses.

Omar Abdullah in fact is going through a very crucial phase of his political career. Kashmir witnessed many critical incidents during his tenure: Shopian alleged double rape and murder, 2010 killings, hanging of Afzal Guru, registering thousands of cases against youth and finally the devastating floods. All these incidents put together are likely to influence the voters in the coming elections.

People’s Democratic Party (PDP) on the other hand is confused as some of its leaders like Muzaffar Hussain Baigh are imitating NC when it comes to conducting elections on time.  But most of PDP leaders are tight lipped, probably, because their patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed has not directly commented on the issue.

Every matured politician like Mufti would have reservations to rule a Kashmir completely devastated by floods, but it never means that he may chose to skip the throne.

Sources close to PDP told Kashmir Life that party wishes elections to happen on time in order to cash the public anger against NC, which according to Syed Malik is at record high especially in Srinagar.

A PDP leader told this reporter on the condition of anonymity that conduct of elections is a must “to get rid of the most disastrous regime state has ever witnessed.” “Kashmiris desperately need to get rid of a disaster disastrous than the recent floods,” he said.

But NC is trying everything to defer the assembly elections at a time when Election Commission of India (ECI) is on a state visit to decide about holding or not holding the democratic dance on time.

Even Omar urged Home Minister not to conduct elections as the State has not yet recovered from the affects of the devastating flood but indicators clearly show that New Delhi is more than interested in conducting them on time.

Political Pundits believe that both centre and state government wants to spend the money meant for the relief and rehabilitation themselves.

For BJP, which dreams to rule the state for the first time in history, wants to “win” Kashmiris by using rehabilitation money. “Conducting elections on time gives advantage to centre, it is a systematic advantage,” Malik said adding “academically there seems no problem for BJP to avail this advantage.”  Malik is of the opinion that hardly 10 out of 87 assembly segments have suffered due to recent floods and most of the segments are anxiously waiting for elections to be conducted.

Even army, which always plays a pivotal role in the J&K elections have hinted that elections will happen on time and they are ready “to provide peaceful atmosphere for the smooth conduct of elections”.

Separatists, are opposed to conduct elections but for other reasons. “Separatists do not want to remain behind bars at this point of time when they feel free to reach people under the garb of relief and solidarity,” said a political commentator. Malik said that floods created an atmosphere for separatists to remain visible even in the city so they want elections to be deferred.

Initially New Delhi was indicating postponement of the elections but as the time passed it clearly showed interest in conducting the election on time. The changed attitude of New Delhi has surely made the decision making job of the Election Commission of India easy. Sources said a meeting of the Commission is scheduled in New Delhi on October 20, during which a final decision on the Kashmir elections is expected.

After floods Kashmir is apparently being festooned to hold assembly elections in the month of December. According to Sanjay Kak, a film maker “some Kashmiris will vote of their own free will and some because they have been induced to, or quietly coerced. They will also do so in the hope that their representatives will help them access the levers of governance, and scarce resources. Many more will keep away as part of a boycott, or perhaps out of fear. And several thousand, most of them young, will battle the massive military apparatus that will be deployed to secure the election. There will inevitably be some killings. Many more will be injured, maimed, or blinded. But what will be picked up, burnished, and then widely circulated, will be the voter turnout…”

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