The divergent views emerging from Kashmir on holding elections as scheduled in December have roots in September’s devastating floods in the Valley, and the ruling National Conference’s (NC) poor response to it.
While the Congress, PDP and BJP favour elections in December, the NC wants the polls deferred, saying relief and rehabilitation work must be completed first.
Kashmir watchers feel parties pushing for early polls are banking on anti-incumbency and the state’s mishandling of flood-relief operations. “If elections are announced, the NC will go to polls with huge baggage. It was not very popular in the last six years and the government’s failure in relief and rescue has made things worse,” said Professor Gul Wani, HoD of Kashmir University’s political science department.
“The Opposition has a clear edge if elections are held,” said Wani. He added that the BJP may not have a vote base in flood-affected areas but it was buoyed by the Maharashtra and Haryana verdicts.
The main political parties — PDP, Congress and BJP — made their views clear to the Election Commission of India (ECI) that visited Srinagar for a day on October 18 to assess whether polls can be held as scheduled.
“Elections are a constitutional necessity. They are held even if there are wars. They are also a compulsion now as the ruling government is unable to help flood-hit people,” PDP spokesman Nayeem Akhtar told HT.
The NC, however, terms this argument “political opportunism.”
“People don’t have a shelter over their heads and there are localities where nobody is living. How can one hold elections now?... People are not mentally prepared,” said Nasir Sogami, the NC’s provincial president for Kashmir.
The Congress has said it wants December polls to avoid Governor’s Rule as the six-year term of the 87-member J&K Assembly expires on January 19, 2015.