Kashmir polls should signal new beginning

Kashmir polls should signal new beginning

Union Home Minister Amit Shah has attacked the alliance, describing it pejoratively as the “Gupkar gang’’, a la the “tukde tukde gang’’

After the farcical Block Development Council elections held last year under lockdown and the sham Panchayat elections in 2018, Jammu & Kashmir will hopefully have a more meaningful electoral exercise with elections to the District Development Councils (DDC) to be held later this month and in December. Under a recently amended law, 280 constituencies were created for 20 districts where elections will now be held. Elections may mean a return of politics to the Union Territory after a prolonged break. The government had taken steps to ensure that there was no political activity, with the detention of all leaders of the main parties and other restrictions. Some of them have been released but some others are still in jail. These parties, including the National Conference, the People’s Democratic Party, the CPM and four others, have decided to contest the elections under the banner of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PUGD).

It is likely that the government had thought that these parties would boycott the elections, as they have done in the past, and give a walkover to the BJP. There is also a view that the DDC elections were a ploy to avoid politics at the Assembly level, limit it to the districts, and make state leaders redundant and irrelevant. It is not a secret that the government wanted to politically nullify leaders like the Abdullahs and Mehbooba Mufti who have opposed the series of actions beginning with the scrapping of Article 370 in August last year, and then to create a new congenial politics in the UT. But the decision of the Gupkar Alliance to participate in the elections may have put paid to those plans, if they existed. There is also the possibility of these parties winning the elections and claiming that they have popular support.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah has attacked the alliance, describing it pejoratively as the “Gupkar gang’’, a la the “tukde tukde gang’’. He has also flayed the Congress for being a part of it. Congress has distanced itself from the alliance but seems to have entered into seat adjustments with it. The government should have actually welcomed the wide participation of parties in the elections as a step to normalise the situation in Kashmir. Instead, these parties are being dubbed as anti-national and traitorous. Since all important parties are involved and since it is the first major election after the scrapping of Article 370, it will be keenly watched. It is the responsibility of the government and the election authorities to ensure that they are held in the most free and fair manner.