Elections 2019: Democracy’s appeal is under test in the shadow of the world’s highest battleground

Elections 2019: Democracy’s appeal is under test in the shadow of the world’s highest battleground
Ink being applied on a voterBCCL
  • On April 11, two constituencies from the state of Jammu & Kashmir – Baramulla and Jammu – will go to polls.
  • For the state, which has been at the centre of terrorist attacks, violence by separatists, civil disobedience and protests, elections hold major significance.
  • The separatist mindset however continues to cloud the state’s democratic potential, directly or indirectly.
Jammu and Kashmir, home to the world’s highest battleground, has only six seats in the Indian Parliament, but it is almost always at the centre of the country’s political discourse. On April 11, two constituencies – Baramulla and Jammu – will go to polls.

Both Baramulla and Jammu are important constituencies with over 1.3 million and 1.8 million voters respectively.

For the state, which has been at the centre of terrorist attacks, violence by separatists, civil disobedience and protests, and the major point of contention between India and Pakistan, elections hold major significance. In Baramulla, colleges are shut for 7 days to ensure peaceful polling, whereas high security is in place across the state so as to avoid any violence during the elections.

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While Kashmiri separatists have called for boycott of polls, parties like Peoples Democratic Party and J&K National Conference, have come to realise that the boycott of polls only works in the benefit of other major parties like BJP and the Indian National Congress.

The separatist mindset however continues to cloud the state’s democratic potential, directly or indirectly. On February 14, Pulwama saw one of the worst terrorist attacks in the history of the state with the death toll rising to over 40. Post the terrorist attack in Pulwama, over 100 Kashmiri separatists were detained by the J&K so that there are no anti-election campaigns.

India then retaliated with the Balakot air strike, where Indian Air Force planes crossed the de facto border in Kashmir. Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was captured after the air strike by the Pakistani army, which further riled up the hostility between the two countries. Pakistan had then released the Wing Commander.

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But for the people of Kashmir, elections mean hopefully making way for an improvement in the situation in the state. Baramulla has been subject to multiple developmental challenges and the people blame the administration for the lack of progress.

The voter turnout in the Panchayat (local administration) elections in Kashmir held in December 2018 saw an average voter turnout of 74%.

The manifestos of the two major political parties – INC and the BJP, both give prominence to Kashmir.

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However, It will be an uphill task for the BJP because neither of the regional parties are friendly with the incumbent government at the centre.

The state has been under President’s rule since December 2018 (which was declared after 6 months of Governor’s rule) and now, the Assembly elections have been reportedly pushed till June 2019. This was because of the fallout in the regional alliance between the central government’s ruling party BJP and the PDP. One of the major reasons behind the fallout between the two parties was the Kathua rape incident where an eight-year old girl was raped. Two senior BJP ministers, Lal Singh and Prakash Chander Ganga had then participated in a rally that supported of the accused in the case.

Further, the BJP manifesto’s promise to revoke the special status of J&K and revoke Article 35-A, which confers special rights on J&K residents especially in the acquisition of property and eligibility for public sector jobs, will also be an overhang on the party’s chances in the valley. However, this is not the first time BJP has promised this. In 2014, the party had put the repealing of Article 370, which gives autonomous status to the state, in its manifesto. But it still managed to gain ground in the state elections held after that.

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The Congress party has said in its manifesto that the two acts will not be touched while the AFSPA and Disturbed Areas Act will be reviewed. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which gives the Army the power in disturbed areas, was implemented in Kashmir in 1990 and since then, has been a point of debate in the state.

See Also:
Lok Sabha Election 2019 candidate list for Jammu and Kashmir
Narendra Modi's election manifesto packs larger doles and a rosy narrative
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