Even as polling for the urban local bodies was continuing on October 8, with the Valley recording a dismal 8 per cent turnout in the first phase, Governor Satya Pal Malik declared in a TV interview that a foreign educated person would be the next Mayor of Srinagar.
How could he be so sure ? NDTV journalist and the TV interviewer Sunetra Choudhary tweeted, “…viewers and Kashmir friends ask how Satyapal Malik knows who will be Srinagar mayor? I should have pinned him down on this.”
The Governor’s faux pas was a telling testimony to the ‘ sham’ nature of the urban body polls in the Valley, which was boycotted by major political parties, people and most potential candidates.
Mohammad Haseeb, a Twitter user from Kashmir, echoed popular sentiment by responding, “The average Kashmiri is no more gullible. The facade and farce of democratically controlled Kashmir is over. Sooner or later India has to relinquish military occupation and listen to people, not its puppets. Eight million people can’t be slaved by few political opportunists.”
“Whatever is going on in Kashmir currently is anything but elections. It’s a non-event. It’s a power game…an exercise for power manipulation—which is not going to change the political situation on the ground. Neither it is a democratic election nor even selection, ” said a Kashmir expert and veteran journalist, Mohammad Sayeed Malik, recalling that National Conference (NC) chief Farooq Abdullah had won the Srinagar Lok Sabha bypoll in which an abysmal 7.13 per cent voter turnout was recorded.
In the ongoing urban body polls as many as 2,990 candidates are in the fray for the four-phase election, which will end on October 16.
“The PDP (People’s Democratic Party) and the NC, have 43 MLAs in the 87-member Assembly. That means half of the state’s legislative footprint is out of the fray,” Omar Abdullah told the media. “You can well imagine how representative these polls are,” he added.
But People’s Conference chairman and member of legislative assembly from Handwara, Sajjad Gani Lone, slammed NC and PDP for boycotting the polls. Lone said that while political parties have the right to not participate in elections, the boycott is ‘farcical’ when the same political parties continue to occupy posts of legislators and parliamentarians.
“We also kept boycotting elections for 25 years, now let PDP and NC boycott elections for another 25 years,” Lone said and dared NC and PDP MPs and MLAs to resign and give up perks and privileges besides constituency development funds “if they are sincere.”
Besides parties like NC and the PDP, the CPI(M), that once had two seats in the state’s Assembly, has also chosen to stay away from the polls.
In the ongoing urban body polls as many as 2,990 candidates are in the fray for the four-phase election, which will end on October 16
CPI(M) leader and Kulgam MLA MY Tarigami warned that “ignoring” the non-participation of major political parties in the upcoming local body polls would have “serious implications” for the future of the state’s democratic process.
Maintaining that polls have been “imposed” on the people at a time “when the situation was not conducive” on the ground, he said: “There can be no two opinions regarding devolution of powers to the grassroots and building of institutions for better governance, but participation of people is the pre-requisite for this process to be meaningful, which is not being witnessed as of now.” But why did the BJP went ahead with the polls despite boycott calls? “There is a method in the madness,” stated Malik, elaborating that, “the boycott has given an opportunity to the BJP to make inroads into Kashmir’s political territory ahead of parliamentary and state assembly elections.”
“If you look at the poll participation, you’ll see it’s the peripheral Shia dominated and border areas which have seen some participation in the ongoing elections. Budgam, for instance, witnessed highest participation (16.97 per cent) in the first phase and it’s a Shia dominant area,” he said, adding that “Imran Raza Ansari, who had first raised the banner of revolt in the PDP, is a prominent Shia leader.”
“Since BJP and RSS have made entry into J&K’s power structure, they won’t let it go. For them ruling the state, preferably with a Hindu Chief Minister, will be no less than an achievement to show—emotionally and politically, than the construction of Ram Mandir,” he said, adding that “it is general anticipation on the ground that the next elections would also see boycotts and the voter turnout would be less than the previous polls, which would again benefit the BJP.
“So, if they are able to create a situation like that where they can garner seats here and there or make some changes (in Kashmir) besides managing 25-26 seats in Jammu, which is their core constituency, they can install a Hindu Chief Minister in the state for the first time. They already have support of leaders like Sajjad Lone. The political base for PDP, NC and partly Congress is shifting in Kashmir. In this way they can claim that Kashmir’s domination over Jammu is over and Kashmir problem has been resolved.”
“The current experiment of conducting local polls is a preparation for that,” he felt, adding that in Kashmir, the local body polls are not going to change the political parameters just like previous elections.