Campaigning for the 10 seats going to polls on November 17 in the first phase of the seven-phase assembly elections ended on Saturday evening. On Monday, 10 of the 87 constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir will go to polls. Of these, three are in the Valley.
Jammu & Kashmir University Vice-Chancellor Amitabh Matto, an expert on international affairs, said: “This election is an important marker towards peace and normalcy. It may not be a milestone, but it is an important marker along the way.”
Meanwhile, the likes of Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq are leading the separatists’ anti-poll campaign, ridiculing the elections as an “exercise by India to showcase its writ on the people of Kashmir”.
The first phase will cover the entire Ladakh region, touching the borders with China, the edges of the Siachen glacier and the foothills of the trans-Himalayas in Kargil. Also in the news will be Gurez in the newly created Bandipore district in the Valley and the border district of Poonch in Jammu. What happens in Sonawari and Bandipore may decide the fate of the rest of the Valley.
The eagerness of the Congress and the BJP — which hopes to ride on the Amarnath land row — to participate in the elections is only matched by reluctance of the regional parties like the National Conference (NC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Although the reasons they have cited range from people’s alienation to adverse weather conditions, the actual reason, experts say, is the change in the ground situation, following the Amarnath row, the Valley’s economic blockade and the opening of the alternative trade routes.
A senior government official, who refused to be identified, told HT that snow was no barrier. He said, “Aren’t
elections held in Russia during snowfall? Helicopters have
been pressed into service to ferry the polling staff and material to inaccessible areas. We want an elected government in Jammu and Kashmir as soon as possible.”