It was the second phase of polls to the 23 Municipal Corporations in Jammu and Kashmir yesterday.
About 1029 candidates are contesting in the polls to 263 municipal wards with 214 in Jammu and 29 in the Kashmir Valley. The counting of votes will take place on 20th after the completion of the second phase on 13th and 16th of this month. The local body polls in the villages will be completed only in November-December after the polls in the urban areas. Prominent political parties have boycotted the polls that is taking place after 10 years. National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that led the dismissed coalition government, CPM, Nationalist Democratic Party (NDP) and Peoples Democratic Front (PDF) are not participating in the elections.
Not even one of the 177 candidates in the 598 municipal and panchayat wards in the valley has submitted the nomination papers. Only one out of the remaining 215 candidates is participating in the polls. Since there are no other likely prospects to win in areas where only the BJP and those backed by the party have contested, it is certain that they will 'win unopposed'. The ‘polls’ are hence taking place for the remaining 206 wards. It is needless to say anything about the outcome of the polls. Attempts have been taking place to accomplish BJP’s desire at least for the sake of it, to conquer the valley as well with the support of the influential power in Jammu and Ladakh areas.
The Sangh Parivar government at the Centre has set out with an obstinacy to establish power even if the heart of Kashmir is not with them. What is happening now is a pitiful attempt to create an impression that their attempts have succeeded. The polling in the Jammu area which is free from terror threats during the second phase of the municipal council polls held on Wednesday, has been weak. On the other hand, the vote count in several wards in Kashmir has failed to cross two digits. It is not that the BJP government at the Centre is unaware that the polling which was boycotted by prominent political parties in the valley will only end like a mockery. The calculation of the BJP which usually shoots goals to empty posts with no opposition, is something else. The party is planning to gradually conquer the state by squeezing into the villages in the valley, and thus expanding its sphere of influence with the help of power. Therefore, they are of the obstinate stand that the polls will have to be held at any cost, however laughable it may be.
The ‘announcement of results’ by the Governor the other day proves how seriously the BJP has taken democracy and the elections. Before entering the second phase of the polls, Governor Satya Pal Malik had revealed to a private channel lately that a ‘foreign-educated’ person would become the Mayor of Srinagar. Although the person’s identity was not revealed, it is known that it is none other than Junaid Mattu who was lured by the BJP while he was the spokesperson of National Conference. Given that the two phases of polling and the announcement of results are yet to happen, the fact that the Governor announced not only the victory but also the Mayor, led to protests from the opposition.
The Governor's act in fact gave the extremists - who totally reject democracy - a justification for their stance. The national parties who kept out of elections citing law and order, were put in greater crisis by the Governor's declaration. The troulespot of the state is the Kashmir valley. Everyone would agree that the way to win back peace is to bring the natives there back to the process of restoring democracy. But democracy is not something to be achieved by force and holding people at gunpoint. In a place where people do not come out to vote, it is not to be re-established by declaring victory. Satya Pal Malik had assumed power giving the impression that he knew all this more than anybody else did.
Within first days of his assuming office, in an interview to Indian Express, he had confessed that India had committed a lot of mistakes in Kashmir, that is the reason for the state keeping away from us, and that we may have failed to fulfil the promises we gave them. His position was that Articles 370 and 35A, which could stir popular sentiments in the state, could be discussed only after the elections. It was such a governor who had moved into power after assessing matters with seasoned wisdom that intervenes by declaring results in the middle of polling. Democracy and elections are means of leading the country from conflict to peace. But paradoxically, in Kashmir it is elections that often leads to conflict and unending unrest. Thus, the polls being held in Jammu & Kashmir are once again reminding us that the problem is not of democracy, but of those who implement it.