Deconstructing DDC Polls

Voters line up outside a polling booth in Budgam. Aman Farooq/GK

For the past few days, an intense debate is going on about the meaning of the verdict delivered by voters in the just concluded District Development Council polls. It is being debated, whether it has endorsed the Gupkar Alliance’s agenda of the restoration of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir or not?

This debate is fine, but the way it is being carried out threatens the political environment in J&K. The biggest casualty of this bitter debate, and usage of the not-so-decent vocabulary would damage the narrative of development for the people.

Two aspects need to be understood, and answers sought for these. That is the idea of the DDC polls and the attributions that have been made to it by the two major sides. It is important to understand all this in proper perspective.

Did, at the time of announcement of its participation in the DDC polls, the “People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration” say that it was doing so to pursue its scared goal of restoration of the pristine glory of the special status and statehood through these polls. The answer is, No.

It had said that it wanted to save the “sacred space of democracy from divisive forces”. There could have been two meanings to it, the DDCs to be protected from the “divisive forces”, and to ensure that the divisive forces – no need to decode it, in PAGD’s dictionary, it was BJP. However, what needed an explanation is, who is holier than thou in democracy. The PAGD’s continuous discourse was that it would launch its struggle “democratically and constitutionally”, then how does a particular space become “sacred” for some and not for others. Were the aliens going to contest in J&K. It was a narrow prism through which the whole issue was seen. The sanctity of the space and the words should be maintained. In future, the students of politics will dissect meaning of each and every written and spoken word. Politics is not a text book, but it has its own dictionary.

That also meant that the PAGD would like to send the message that the people trust the alliance partners for whatever the DDC polls were meant for. And, perhaps there was an assumption that each vote cast for the alliance would automatically mean vote for the restoration of Article 370. The PAGD used the idea of its coming together as its agenda for the polls in a muted fashion. Nothing wrong in it, but the specifics should have been made clear at the start of the process, rather than interpreting it at the end of it. Well, that’s politics.

Here we come to a question that if the vote has been delivered in favour of the PAGD’s original agenda, what will be the next step? This is important to know from the Alliance partners that how do they plan to combine the development of J&K with their political agenda. This question has not been answered.

First thing that the PAGD should do is to come out with its post-poll to-do-list. Winning seats is one thing and translating them into work for the people is different. The people in J&K know that there is a big gap between the promise and delivery, be it the PAGD partners or the BJP.

There never was a promise by any quarter that the DDC polls would mean empowering the pro-special status forces, so the empowerment of the people will come through the access to the representatives and also how the needs for basic necessities are met.

There is absolutely no doubt that the BJP was quite confident that the PAGD that had devoted itself to the special status would boycott the polls. The BJP had taunted the PAGD for its decision to take part in the polls and called it “power hungry” for climbing down from its devotion to the restoration of the special status to contesting the DDC polls. What was wrong in it? BJP is not having the monopoly over the democratic processes. How do we know that how many independents among the winners are having the similar sentiment as that of the PAGD?

The way the party used the sentiment of “tiranga” (national tricolour) and nationalism in the campaign reflected ignorance of its campaigners about J&K. They ignored many aspects of the history of Jammu and Kashmir. Either the saffron party had not done its home work, or it deliberately started a narrative that would have helped it in certain pockets. That it succeeded by winning 75, the highest number of seats among among all the contesting parties. The PAGD was a pre-poll Alliance, that, too, needs to be taken into consideration. The Alliance won 109.

The BJP must introspect that if by winning three seats in the Valley, it has opened its account in the Valley- the lotus has bloomed, then the statistics would have to be compared in fair manner – 75 out of 280!

But BJP has far bigger responsibility both as a national party and the ruling party at the Centre to deliver on “development and prosperity”. Home Minister Amit Shah has laid out the post-poll agenda for the party, now it must focus on that only.