In communally divided Jammu and Kashmir, political parties reacted along predictable lines to the announcement of poll schedule by the Election Commission amid louder cries of poll boycott by separatist forces in Kashmir Valley.
In Jammu, both people and political parties welcomes the announcement of the elections. In the Valley, however, public sentiment was against the polls. Within minutes of the Election Commission’s announcement, separatist forces of different hues came out with plans to oppose elections.
“We are not for elections. People demand right of self-determination”, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, chairman of a faction of Hurriyat Conference, said. “We will ask people to remain away from the elections because this is not our goal. We are hopeful that people will listen to us and boycott the elections”, he said.
JKLF chief Mohammad Yasin Malik said, “We will launch a state-wide campaign against the elections.”
Syed Ali Geelani-led Hurriyat, too, rejected the elections.
The majority of people are fuming under a deep sense of alienation. Most of people Hindustan Times talked to on Sunday said they were not in favour of the elections. “We will not vote. Election is not a solution. We want resolution of the issue of Kashmir”, said Merajuddin, a fruit vendor in Lal Chowk.
Other than the mood of the separatists, weather too has become a matter of concern. The upper reaches have already begun to witness harsh winter.
In stark contrast, there is jubilation among Jammu-based political parties — the BJP and the Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party, which had five seats in the dissolved Assembly.
The PDP maintained a silence while the National Conference said it was ready for the election, despite the timing of the polls being wrong.
For NC president Omar Abdullah, who talked to HT on phone, these are not the perfect times to hold elections in the state. The NC, Omar said, would be ready for the elections.
The NC’s main rival in Jammu & Kashmir, the PDP, has offered no reaction. PDP president was not available for comments, but a senior leader of the party said on condition of anonymity: “We are against early elections. But we will not shy away from our responsibility and take part. But it is to be seen as to how people respond.”
The Congress, which had ruled the state for 32 months, is happy that the EC has taken a decision.
“We are ready for the polls,” PCC chief Saif-ud-Din Soz said.