‘Block Development Council elections a red herring to digress attention from people suffering in Valley’

J&K’s Political leaders feel it is just a ploy by the BJP government to paint a picture of ‘normalcy’ in the state

‘Block Development Council elections a red herring to digress attention from people suffering in Valley’

Gulzar Bhat

The government's announcement to hold elections to Block Development Council (BDC) is being seen as an incongruous move by both panchayat members and political parties in Jammu & Kashmir which continues to be in a communication clampdown.

The elections for 310 blocks, according to government, will be held on October 24.

Many of the panchs and sarpanchs who represent the electoral democracy at grassroots and form the electorates in these elections have literally been on the run even before August 5, when the Centre stripped the state of its special status and split it into two Union Territories.

“What elections they are speaking about? This is a sham democracy. We are doubly victimised. First militants were after us and now we are being collared by the police,” says a sarpanch from south Kashmir's Shopian district who is also a card holder of Peoples Democratic Party.

He said that he had been staying at a friend’s place to evade both police and militants.

“And under such circumstances they want to hold these elections,” he exclaimed.

He said that they had not been provided any security cover by the government. Further, according to him, only a few panchayat members were provided accommodation in some hotels in Srinagar.

The panchayat polls in Jammu and Kashmir were held during November-December last year. Although the polls were boycotted by the two principal parties — NC and PDP — of the state, the Election Commission went ahead with the process amid burgeoning militant threats.

The polls were later billed as a huge success with authorities pegging the average voter turnout in the elections at 74 percent.

Although Jammu and Ladakh regions, as expected, did record a fairly good voter turnout, the trouble-torn Valley had very few voters showing up at polling booths. More than 60 percent of panch and sarpanch seats remained vacant as no candidate filed nomination papers on these seats. Moreover, a large number of panchs and sarpanchs were elected unopposed.

Official figures reveal that of the 7,596 elected panchs, around 3,500 were elected unopposed. Similarly more than 500 sarpanchs made it without any contest.

Political arrests and BDC elections

Many panchayat members questioned the wisdom behind conducting these elections on party lines in the forthcoming polls.

“Neither political democracy nor political parties exist in Kashmir right now. Barring BJP, leaders of every single political party are in holding cells at different police stations,” said a sarpanch in Pulwama.

Apart from the three former Chief Ministers, over a hundred political leaders have been detained in Jammu and Kashmir since August 5.

Following the announcement of the Block Development Council polls, authorities on Wednesday said that they had released all detained political leaders and activists in Jammu. The leaders in the Valley, however, continue to remain under detention and the administration is still mute on their release.

A National Conference leader from Jammu said that BJP not only wanted to choke the space of other political parties but also showcase a false notion of “normalcy” by conducting the polls under such circumstances.

A valley based political analyst said told National Herald that the BDC elections were simply a red herring to digress the attention of world from the current situation.

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