A contest not yet in sight

Whenever held, polls can be more interesting due to wider participation of parties
People inside a polling booth in Bandipora. [Representational Image]
People inside a polling booth in Bandipora. [Representational Image] Mubashir Khan for Greater Kashmir

Even as there are no early signs of any kind of elections in Jammu and Kashmir, political parties have already begun necessary preparations to re-connect with the people on the ground. The leaders are holding public and party meetings in different parts.

Whenever held, the polls can lead to tougher contests. Whether Assembly or Parliament polls, or elections for panchayat or urban local bodies, nail biting finishes can be witnessed. This is because earlier the contest used to be between two or three major political parties only, but now more parties are gearing up to join the electoral fray. This means more division of votes and unexpected and surprising results in the constituencies.

National Conference and PDP which had not participated in 2018 panchayat and urban local bodies polls have already announced to take part this time. Describing their non-participation last time as a "mistake", the parties said that they would "contest for every inch of the space now and will not leave that space for others." Last time the panchayat polls were held on non-party basis and municipalities' elections on party basis.            

The five year term of panchayats and urban local bodies is coming to an end in October-November this year. Parliament polls are scheduled in April-May next year and the assembly elections in J&K are long over due. It is to be seen which elections are held first.

Assembly and parliamentary polls can create more tricky situations, particularly for major political parties, who have bigger stakes. Any wrong calculation or move, like not forming any pre- poll alliance or forming a wrong alliance can prove costly for them in the dicey election scenario. The participation of all the major and other parties would make all polls very interesting and such electoral exercises will no more be one sided.

According to election authorities the final electoral rolls  in J&K will be published on May 27 after the special summary revision. For panchayat polls, the separate revision in the electoral rolls has to be conducted. However,  the rolls can be extracted from the general summary revision for urban local bodies' polls.

Recently,  the Election Commission of India (ECI) had ordered appointment of dedicated assistant electoral registration officers for all the 90 assembly constituencies of Jammu and Kashmir. This had created some excitement among the political circles here.

Now it is to be seen  whether the assembly and panchayat and urban local bodies polls are held this year or not. Government has been taking credit for strengthening the democracy at grassroots level by conducting panchayat and urban local bodies polls in 2018 and then also holding elections for block development councils in 2019 and for district development councils in 2020.

Some political leaders  have been alleging that the assembly polls are being  delayed as BJP fears defeat. However, the charge was denied by BJP. Its J&K President Ravinder Raina said that his party is ready for polls and added that BJP will form the next government.

Jammu and Kashmir has five Lok Sabha constituencies now instead of the six (one from Ladakh) in the past. The parliament polls too will be interesting. After the delimitation exercise  entire Poonch district, and Rajouri, Nowshera and Thanna Mandi assembly constituencies of Rajouri district were separated from Jammu Lok Sabha constituency and made  part of what is now being called the Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha seat.

In last Lok Sabha polls NC had won all the three seats from Kashmir, while BJP two from Jammu and one from Ladakh. Rajouri and Poonch were important for Kashmir based parties in past but now after the whole district of Poonch and areas of Rajouri district having become part of Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency, their importance has further increased.

The political leaders keep on regularly visiting the two districts and holding public meetings there. They include leaders from NC, PDP, Apni Party and Democratic Progressive Azad Party ( DPA).

Last week Apni Party President Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari addressed series of public and party meetings there and appealed the people to vote for his party. Bukhari urged the people to "say goodbye to the politics of deceit by traditional political parties" and support Apni Party, "which  is for truth, peace and development."

While Bukhari was busy in Rajouri and Poonch, Ghulam Nabi Azad, chairman DPAP addressed series of public and party meetings in Kashmir. He reminded the people of the large scale development during his era as chief minister and promised similar  development if his party is voted to power. Azad and Bukhari also addressed separate party conventions or party meetings in Jammu district a couple of days back.

Political circles here believe that Azad formed his party and returned to J&K politics slightly late. He has to do lot of ground work and that too with consistency if he has to make some headway.  Azad says that his party prefers youth. But little known political faces in the party can be a disadvantage to it at the time of elections.

Bukhari, after the formation of Apni Party has been very active on political front. He has since been visiting different parts of J&K to introduce his new party to the people. Bukhari has some known faces in the party, who have won assembly polls in past on the mandates of other political parties. It is to be seen whether they can repeat their performance from the Apni Party platform when the time comes.

BJP too is very active and trying to consolidate its position in Kashmir valley also. The ongoing preparation by the political parties can gain further momentum once the election bugle is formally sounded. Till then the preparations will certainly continue but more wait can lead to more suspense and more uncertainty regarding the timing of elections.

Author is Senior Editor, Greater Kashmir.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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