Holding municipal/panchayat polls in J&K amid the NC-PDP boycott will be a farce.
NC and PDP should start to work together
Times do change. Who would have imagined that someday the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) would boycott the urban and panchayat polls and New Delhi would still go ahead with holding them, not paying any heed to the cries of its proxies. The move by the two main regional parties to boycott these polls and the Centre’s response thereof is a defeat of both, as the ultimate goal and vision of both lies in strengthening the relationship between Srinagar and New Delhi.
It is meanwhile anyone’s guess that holding these elections without the participation of the NC, PDP and some other parties will be a futile exercise and sequentially a setback to the political process that the Centre may have thought about for the restive state.
No matter in what numbers do people participate in these elections, the bigger issue here is the harsh reality that nothing except uncertainty and distrust has changed in Kashmir even after three decades of militancy and resistance against New Delhi. If the NC and PDP have sincerely realised that New Delhi, by linking the Article 35A hearing in the Supreme Court to local body polls has ditched Kashmiris, it should be welcomed by all, but both the mainstream parties need to realise that if New Delhi can show the courage to bypass them, it should not be difficult to realise that its arrogance is touching new heights. While one may praise the NC and PDP for showing some resistance by not taking part in the local body elections, both the parties need to confess that their apologetic, compromising and unrealistic attitude till the recent past has been the only strength of New Delhi while dealing with the Kashmir issue. No doubt, Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah may be cursing themselves without expressing it for the humiliation they have been gifted by New Delhi over the local body polls, the latter too has achieved nothing except ensuring an early funeral of mainstream politics in J&K. Let’s not forget that the NC and PDP have been always representing New Delhi in Kashmir rather than representing Kashmir in New Delhi, and are seen as New Delhi’s main faces and proxies in the state. Now if its own people are losing faith in New Delhi, things may turn uglier in the coming days subject to the consistency NC and PDP may show in their stances. Whatsoever is being witnessed vis-a-vis these polls has yet again proven that calling mainstream parties just puppets and downplaying their significance is unrealistic. The boycott by the NC and PDP of these polls has shaken those who matter and if Kashmiris, including both separatists and mainstream politicians, understand the sentiments of their people, they need to have a common minimum programme to find a roadmap for a resolution to Kashmir dispute. This, at least, is the lesson and the message the local body elections have for all of them. Let the NC and PDP move a step further and join hands with each other.
The writer is the leader of the Awami Itehad Party and a member of the J&K Legislative Assembly
It will make separatists irrelevant
Out of power, the Kashmir-based mainstream parties -- the National Conference and the Peoples’ Democratic Party -- have raised a banner of revolt against New Delhi as both are finding it hard to digest that they have been sidelined by the Government of India. The decision of the NC and PDP to boycott the forthcoming panchayat and municipal polls is just a stunt to intimidate New Delhi to give importance to them.
The forthcoming polls are aimed at empowering the people at the grassroots level. The panchayat and municipal polls in Jammu and Kashmir are being held after a gap of 10 and 13 years respectively. The delay has proved to be a big loss for the common man. Many Centrally-sponsored schemes which are directly linked to panchayats and municipal committees have come to a grinding halt due to the local bodies not being in place. It’s unfortunate that the mainstream parties seem least bothered about allowing the benefits of various schemes to reach the common man.
It has been observed that leaders of the mainstream parties in Kashmir have always tried to “sabotage” these polls as the MLAs on many occasions have expressed reservations about empowering the panchs, sarpanchs and counsellors. It’s regrettable that Kashmiri leaders don’t want to share power with anyone.
Now the poll schedule has been announced and the Centre has decided to go ahead with the democratic process despite the boycott calls. One of the PDP ministers during his “heyday” had predicted that polls cannot be held in Kashmir for many years. But the time has come to prove him wrong.
In absence of the PDP and NC, many new faces will come to the fore during these elections as the youth are keen to make their presence felt on the ground. There is every possibility of new people challenging the hegemony of the NC and PDP, which have in all these years been promoting dynastic rule.
The forthcoming panchayat and municipal polls are a big challenge for the security forces. Everyone, including the separatists and the mainstream parties in Kashmir, will try their best to disrupt the exercise. It looks like that no one wants to give the democratic process a chance as all players in the Kashmir Valley have got together to “prove” to New Delhi that Kashmir is burning, and that the flames cannot be doused.
The PDP and NC have always thrived on boycotts. They want this trend to continue to ensure that they don’t become irrelevant. But New Delhi remaining firm on its stand to go ahead with the polls has unnerved both the parties, which during all these years have been just indulging in lip-service and nothing else.
The coming local bodies’ polls are just a beginning. The exercise will throw up big surprises and would prove to be a stepping stone for many newcomers. The successful conduct of these polls would turn the politicians with separatist leanings completely irrelevant.
The writer is a former journalist and J&K affairs spokesperson of the BJP