It is tragic that sometimes it takes a disaster for some truths to be unravelled. When floods wreaked havoc in Kashmir, the flat-footedness of the state administration had been exposed. It was then left to the Army to do the rescue work, from evacuating people to safety to providing relief to restoring transmission lines. Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah had always been a little squeamish about the presence of the Army in his state, and quite vocal about the withdrawal of the operation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. Though it is debatable whether the Army could have done better than it did, it is certain that things would have been worse without the intervention of the troopers. Army chief Dalbir Singh Suhag’s assurance that the jawans will not go back to the barracks until the evacuation is completed will bring some comfort to those who had been most vociferous in their opposition to the Army. After things improve, if the good work the Army did can be politically articulated, a measure of restoration of faith in the armed forces can take place and people’s confidence can be won back.
It is against this background that the state is going to polls towards the close of the year. It has been the nation’s collective experience that a natural calamity (though human activities had a role) can make election activity even more acrimonious because of issues arising out of how relief money is spent drag and take on a political colour. Already there are rumours that flood relief is being distributed along ‘sectarian lines’ though the Centre has sought to clear the air in this regard. There is palpable anger at the state government, and the BJP, which has made inroads into the state, can electorally gain from it.
Any form of dislocation, man-made or natural, can come in the way of free and fair elections. Hence, the idea floated by some that the elections in the state should be postponed is worth exploring so that there is no comparative advantage in the hands of any party.