A new democratic path has opened with District Development Council polls in Jammu and Kashmir. There is some sort of celebration inside the official circles that the first phase recorded nearly 52 per cent of voter turn out. The Valley saw handsome voting percentage of 41%. Seven phases are still to go till December 19, and the real time outcome would be known on December 22.
The phase of polling was peaceful, and there is a hope that the rest of the phases, too, would be like that only. It would be a mistake to term this peaceful polling in terms of victory for some and defeat for others. People are contesting polls. At the end of the day, some will win and others lose in this game of ballots. That is how the democracy works all across India, then why J&K should be seen through a different prism?
We should not be forgetting that there was no poll boycott call from any quarter – those who used to give such calls are also taking part – Sajad Gani Lone of People’s Conference is an example of it, he parted ways with boycott politics in 2009 parliamentary elections, officially.
The protagonists of boycott call would demand beyond the Constitution of India in the time and space when Jammu and Kashmir was already a majestic state with a special status. Now it is a Union Territory, separated from Ladakh region, that has changed the whole paradigm and the political landscape. The demands have downgraded, and realistically so.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his awe-inspiring deputy Amit Shah, have all the right to take credit for setting hitherto unknown part of the grassroots democracy in motion. Lieutenant General Manoj Sinha has his own share, for these polls are taking place under his watch as Lieutenant Governor.
This also is a moment for People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration to reflect, particularly for National Conference and People’s Democratic Party, how the DDC polls have shown them in bright and poor light simultaneously. They were greeted with a surprise when the DDC polls were announced on November 4. They also sprung a surprise by their declaration to take part in the polls. Surprise versus surprise changed the whole scene of the contest.
The PAGD’s announcement had an unsettling effect on some of its hardcore supporters who saw it as a climbdown from the stated position of restoration of Article 370. They were hurt, but they trusted the leadership and cooperated by lining up outside polling booths.
The PAGD’s decision threw to winds all the calculations of others who thought that these Kashmir-centric parties had said goodbye to pragmatism and were in endless courtship with the rigidity. There should have been no debate why the PAGD decided to take part in polls.
It was not long ago that there were appeals to Hurriyat Conference to take part in polls. And the Centre’s last interlocutor on Kashmir Dineshwar Sharma was trying to woo the separatist conglomerate to talk, and the talks had a goal to bring them to mainstream of electoral politics.
Had the PAGD not participated, the high voting percentage would not have been there. Their participation has made the contest keener and credible.
But what the NC and PDP need to reflect more is, had they, during their rule, nourished and allowed the grassroots democracy to grow, perhaps J&K would not have been faced with the situation in which it is today.
It is a matter of record that all the time they gave a new twist to their wins in elections, in which the DDC hardly figured anywhere. If today they are taking part in the DDC elections, then they could have held and participated in the polls in the past too.
There always was a slogan of getting something more than what J&K had. Now the situation is that J&K has lost what it had. They cannot escape the responsibility for that. Had they done all this, and given all the governance expected of them, J&K would have been different than what it is now.
And, they should not use the militancy in their era as an excuse for not holding polls to these grassroots democratic institutions. That will backfire in the current situation and give credence to the charges of BJP that they were not serious in curbing the forces of violence. BJP, however, should know that the dangers of violence have not disappeared together.
The DDC polls should be left to the development narrative and the verdict should be honoured. Any political colouring of the verdict from any side would be ominous. The DDC polls and their outcome should open the path to reconciliation. Confrontation would not yield anything but disaster. Kashmir’s history is replete with it. No polls within the Indian constitution should be ever categorized in us versus they contest. It is a long journey ahead .
Modi knows it. The development can pave way for many things and Kashmir should become a role model that has been promised by him. Kashmiris are the core part of that narrative. Their participation in the DDC polls has shown that.