Where do they stand?

The recent polls have raised a very serious question for political parties to answer


The ongoing Municipal Polls should open eyes of  policy makers to  new realities  replacing the familiar optics  in the Kashmir Valley. No election attracts 100 per cent voters ever, but then these exercises gain credibility only when there is a reasonable participation of the electorate.  It was not there. In fact, it was abysmally low participation, which is not even worth writing. That is what the Valley has reduced itself to, because of the adamancy of the Government of India to  have the grassroots  democratic elections  to underscore a point that  it vibrates with the people  irrespective of the volatile situation in some parts of Kashmir.  Its idea that more money and more powers to these institutions would upset the calculations of naysayers hasn’t worked.

The Valley has insulated itself from the larger democratic world. Delhi should be worried as much as the Valley itself. There is no doubt that the situation is bad  in some pockets of the Valley, particularly south Kashmir, where uncontested and no-candidate  phenomenon has reduced the very importance of the polls. The resistance to the participation in the polls  is  considered as a tribute to the graves of those whom the people in common parlance call “ martyr.”  This trajectory  has its own pitfalls. The violence cannot be  a permanent feature  for any society that wants to assert its identity  with dignity. The graveyards are permanent places of rest.

These cannot be substitute to the vibrant life.  If the on-participation is a matter of protest, then that should have been stated like that.  And protest against what  and why. It should not have been  camouflaged in the language that the secessionists speak. It  is assumed that the boycott  means that graves and ballots do not go together. They have respected graves  and rejected the ballots. But what convinced them about the boycott more was the fact that those who forced them to dig graves  should not  have expected them to line up before the polling booths.. That is logical to some extent.  But what needs to be understood is  that somewhere the cycle of grave digging had to be stopped. In any case Municipal or panchayat elections could not have  been construed  as if Kashmir solution has been delivered  The clamour for the K solution had amplified after 2005 Municipal  and 2011 Panchayat polls. 

So, the Governor Satya Pal Malik is  right in saying that these polls were for the development, empowerment of the people. The Government of  India had a different idea that these polls would bring more powers to the institutions with more   money and developmental plans that could  offer the taste of real democracy and empowerment to the people of the Valley alongside  the rest of the State. That could create a situation where the democratic means could be encouraged for  the dialogue to end the violence-riddled conflict. Delhi’s hope and effort have not been accepted some sections.

This will have its own consequences that will impact the dialogue process whenever it is undertaken. Indeed   Article 35-A is an issue  deeply connected with the sentiment of the Valley. Sure enough, the Kashmir centric parties had to put  across their viewpoint on the issue.  With National Conference, PDP and to some extent even Congress, staying away from  the polls, was  not a good idea. National Conference set the  tone, PDP and others followed. But the question remains how long these parties will remain in boycott mode or can their boycott-the –poll for  call  remain valid for all elections. At the same time, they will have also to explain that  if the Article 35 A is the fundamental  reason to boycott, will they wait till the matter is decided in the Supreme Court.

They are ambiguous. Their ambiguity has caused another problem that they have undermined their own place in the electoral politics. This should have been clear to them that the tag of “ mainstream” that they flaunt incessantly, doesn’t come to them from the people. They owe it to their loyalties, though these keep on shifting  quite often,  to peddle the  Indian narrative. 

The mainstream, in the political science, is the term reserved for the  parties and leaders who enjoy unqualified majority support among the people. NC and PDP knew that they didn’t have that support, so they flinched  from the polls. 

Other factors  too have contributed to the people staying indoors. The people know them – the all-pervading fear. But, these groups have created an atmosphere where things would prove harder for them in future.

They have handed over an excuse to Delhi that these parties were against the empowerment of the people.. And, if the local parties and leaders did not take part in the elections, it was their choice. The participation in the Assembly and parliamentary elections would render their current claim hollow  if they participate directly or indirectly. They should make it  clear, where do they stand ?