Whither Assembly Elections

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The elaborate exercise of holding Lok Sabha elections is now nearing to closure in India. By May 23, everybody will know who will lead India for the next five years. This will put an end to the uncertainty that people, mostly the minorities, across India are passing through. The BJP may possibly return to power with a weaker mandate and that weakness will also reflect in the way it transacts the business of a state that is almost stagnated for the last five years.

Though every political party had a story to tell in this election but the ruling BJP decided against telling its own story – its poll promises in 2014; its report card in 2019. The party chose to contest on a bomb explosion that took place in Kashmir’s Pulwama district. It raised the pitch on security issue and even sent lot of aircrafts bombing Balakote in Pakistan. How far has this policy paid the BJP can be known when the EVMs will eventually be opened for the counting.

Though the BJP spent lot if its energy over doing away with the special position of Jammu and Kashmir, the fact is that the sensitive state exhibits is distinct nature even in the Lok Sabha poll follow up. Unlike rest of India, the exercise conclusion will end the tensions for the next five years, but in Jammu and Kashmir, the crisis is still around. It has not elected government since the 2018 summer.

Authorities, who ensured the Lok Sabha elections are peaceful regardless of the low poll that was expected, are developing cold feet when the issue of assembly elections comes up. The Election Commission of India that broke many of its teeth in the Lok Sabha election is apparently convinced that it can hold polls but to ensure that it does not hit the political interests of the rulers, it makes its statements subject to the government decision-making.

The political parties in Kashmir are desperate to see an elected government in the state. They have met ECI many times and requested for an assembly election. While it is true the demand for an elected government in the state must be desperation for holding power in the state, this is also true that absence of an elected government in the state is detrimental to the interests of the state. Even the worst elected government is considered a better option in comparison to any kind of bureaucratic rule or autocracy.

The governor’s rule in Jammu and Kashmir has its limitations. It restricts the involvement of the people, surges the wedge between the governance structures and the people, and has the potential of fiddling with the key constitutional issues that are fundamental to the state’s special status in the federation. The governor’s rule for shorter durations is manageable but pushing a sensitive state for longer spells of remote rule is having a serious flipside.

The state assembly elections could have been held alongside the Lok Sabha polls. They were not. Now the state political parties are seeking an immediate review so that the elections are held in June. But the governments in Delhi and Srinagar have evolved their own discourse that seemingly is going to push the assembly elections to the autumn. But this all depends on who will run Delhi for the next five years.

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