With two regional majors – National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party having announced to boycott the forthcoming elections to Urban Local Bodies (ULB) and Panchayats, the general belief was that the government would also shelve the idea of holding these elections for the time being. However it did not happen. State’s Election authorities have already announced schedule for the conduct of ULB elections saying these will be held from October 08-16 in four phases in all municipalities across the state, and the Panchayat polls are going to be held from November 17-December 11 in nine phases.
This announcement of the poll schedule has put to rest all sorts of speculations and doubts about their conduct – making it clear that the government has made up its mind to go ahead with these elections. Notwithstanding which political groups and individuals or what percentage of the general public chooses to participate, the elections are going to be held come what may. This is what the government has put across as assertively as it possibly could.
While both NC and PDP have cited the legal challenges posed to the Article 35-A as raison d'être for their boycott, separatists too have appealed the people to stay away from these elections. In the latter case, as always, this time around too their call for poll boycott is sourced to the larger political conflict here. Same remains the locus of the militant leadership which has grown no bones in openly threatening violence against those participating in these elections, both as candidates and as voters. So the die is cast – with government prepared to do whatever it takes for making elections a success, and its adversaries on the other side of political divide ready to thwart it with whatever resources they have at their command!
State’s security agencies including the State police are by their very mandate programmed and organized into carrying out the orders of the political executive. So their assertions that they would “successfully” conduct these elections, makes lot of sense when seen in this context. But it is also true that there are limits to what the men in Khaki say and what they could actually achieve. The reasons, besides other things, also being that the initiative for the situational calm or turbulence is not exclusively with the police and other security agencies. No wonder that people in know of Kashmir have their fingers crossed and are waiting with baited breaths to see how the next two months of electioneering would go here.
Even if one dares to bet it on the competence of the security agencies and gives it to them that they would somehow manage semblance of calm even in the face of very challenging situation, but it is still true that the common people here are scared to their marrow, not sure as to how the situation would fare during elections. Hindsight has it that Kashmir is a very tricky place, which could go up in flames at the slightest of provocations. And once ignited, it would incinerate everything, consuming both its people as well as the institutions, sometimes even for months together.
Interestingly, the two months reserved for the elections -- October 11 to December 11 -- is also the time in Valley when annual academic calendar draws to close, and annual examinations are held. With elections around during this time, one is not sure if the situation would remain calm enough for this important academic activity to take place. One is also not sure if this important aspect has been mulled over by the government while planning elections. Therefore, it would be advisable that the annual exams in both schools and colleges are preponed by couple of weeks so as to ward off harmful effects of any possible election-related situational turbulence on annual exams of Kashmir’s children.