Ahead of the coming Panchayat and Urban Local Bodies (ULB) polls it is a party joining or party changing season right now for large number of political workers and supporters in Jammu and Kashmir. The process picked up pace some time back and is gaining momentum with every passing day.
Most political workers are joining the parties with a hope to be fielded as candidates in polls. With time they will be curious to know as who among them will get a chance and who not.
Right now all political parties have opened their doors for the new entrants and the leaders are happy with the response also. That is the reason that on every week functions are being held by one party or the other in different parts of Jammu and Kashmir to welcome the new workers or supporters. In a way efforts are on by every party to facilitate the entry of new faces as also the old faces, who keep on changing parties as per their convenience .
The leaders believe that more the entry of political workers and supporters more it will be useful for them during the panchayat, ULB , Lok Sabha and assembly polls. According to them this process must continue.
Reports indicate that almost all parties have started getting a good response. Even the parties deserted by their senior leaders few years back are surprised by the response and they believe it indicates a change in the mood of the people at the ground level.
However, nothing can be said about the change in mood, if any, right now and for that polls are the best indicators. Since panchayat, ULB and Lok Sabha polls are in the pipeline so an insight regarding the pulse of the people will be available accordingly. And for the assembly polls, the wait continues by the political parties.
This wait started as the legislative assembly of erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state of which Ladakh was also a part was dissolved on November 21, 2018. Uncertainty continues regarding the exact timing of assembly polls. The central government has stated that it is prepared but a call has finally to be taken by election commission of India.
With hardly any hope of getting political power back through assembly polls in near future, the political leaders are presently busy spending their time in strengthening their parties with the entry of more people and preparing for panchayat and ULB polls.
They also continue to target their political opponents and are not lowering their guard on that front. In the process sometimes some of them also like to fish in the troubled waters of Kashmir history to make their points .
Like recently Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari, President of Apni Party, while addressing a party function at Uri said that " the tallest leader of his times Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah did not tell the truth to his people and kept on changing political stances."
NC described Bukhari's allegations against its founder, "Sher-e-Kashmir, as baseless and condemnable." The Apni Party President in his interviews later said that what he stated at Uri was true but he never intended to criticise Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. NC also preferred not to give much importance to the issue later and observed silence.
The premier political party may not be liking Bukhari trying to expand his party's reach among the people but it also draws satisfaction from the fact that it was Bukhari who by launching Apni Party gave a severe blow to PDP, which had emerged as an alternative to NC and removed the oldest political party of the erstwhile stare from power twice and even reached to Parliament. Apni Party' s growth weakened PDP as most senior leaders joined the former after leaving the latter, thereby indirectly or may be unintentionally also giving an edge to NC.
NC leaders have expressed displeasure over the dropping of the title "Sher" from the name of convention centre in Srinagar, SKICC – Sher e Kashmir International Conference Centre. Amid this displeasure some NC circles are said to be believing that while such moves are hurting them emotionally but those can be an advantage politically for their party as well.
According to them this is so because during the last three decades no stone was left unturned by their opponents to tarnish the image of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. They believe that it is like a political reverse gear for the image of their party founder.
Whether these circles are right or wrong in their perception, right now, but their immediate wish is assembly polls. Same is the case with other major political parties also. The leaders are tired presently because of the endless wait. Nothing is practically changing for them on the ground. Getting the political power still seems a distant and uncertain dream for them.
Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha recently said that his administration is ready for assembly polls but the election commission of India has to take a decision in this regard.
He said that during an interview with a media organisation he had told the interviewer to conduct a survey in J&K to know what the people say about assembly polls.
Later, speaking at a function in Srinagar the Lieutenant Governor said that 80 percent people in J&K are happy with the functioning and working of his administration and the rest 20 percent are unhappy since they are not able to loot the state exchequer as they used in the past.
He added that common people want this type of transparent, effective and corruption free functioning of the government to continue even in future also. Lieutenant Governor said that the democracy at grass root levels was denied to the people by the governments in past but the present government empowered them through panchayat, ULB, block development council and district development council polls.
Since the panchayat and ULB polls are to be conducted after some time, the political activities will increase in coming times. More and more workers and supporters will join the political parties of their choice- some genuinely and some in search of greener pastures. But which party will finally emerge the strongest depends upon the public support, which is the real beauty of electoral democracy.
Author is senior editor, Greater Kashmir.