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How Kashmir politicians orchestrate their political configurations!

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By: Tawfeeq Irshad Mir 

The huge voter turnout in Baramulla Lok Sabha constituency has stunned the political observers. The players on the battle ground were many, but the eyes were on just a few. In this mega quadrant fight between prominent parties like National Conference, People’s Democratic Party, People’s Conference and the firebrand politician and head of AIP, Engineer Rasheed.

Despite his long political journey spanning over more than a decade now, the political enchantment of Rasheed remains restricted to his constituency. He has been the strong advocate of referendum and this time around we witnessed a hyperactive and more proficient politician in him who held rallies across the spectrum, traversed almost every part of North Kashmir in a short span of time. The way he pulled crowds, he must have endured sleepless nights to his arch rivals. The entrance of engineer Rashid in Lok Sabha fight, altered the electoral and political dynamics of North Kashmir. While all Hurriyat factions advised people to stay home during elections and not to cast their votes, Rasheed asked votes on nearly the same lines as that of Hurriyat.

Engineer Rashid went ahead and defied all bans prompting the people to vote for him. Keeping in mind the political developments in past five years, it was expected that this time Kashmir will witness lowest turnout. Kashmir witnessed huge uprisings and armed activities during the past five years. Many civilians, security and armed persons were killed during recent past as well as the BJP’s outright assault on the special status of Kashmir. But nothing seemed to deter the voters who came out to cast their votes in favor of their candidates as the poll percentage wasn’t that low at all.

One of the factors that led to increase in the voting patterns was Rasheed’s exclusive outreach to the people. He convinced people to vote for him promising safety, strengthening their cause and voicing their concerns in the Indian Parliament. He, like other candidates, restored the democratic consensus of people for this huge turnout. In my opinion, Rasheed actually helped Narendra Modi, to set the whole state on electoral field. If people hadn’t voted this time, it might have drawn repercussions on Modi’s ability to deal with the state.

The way he changed the narrative during this campaigning period, eventually influenced people to exercise their right to vote. By seeking votes on the pretext of Kashmir issue, when everyone else was talking about life amenities and basic necessitates of the masses, Rasheed actually ratified Kashmir’s Accession to India and accepted the integrity and sovereignty of Indian nation while debunking the hurriyat ideology of ‘resistance’.

There are multiple dimensions as to how Kashmiris interpret the elections. Some call it political maturity and see it as a befitting strategy to avoid having a party in power that has no sensibilities about Kashmir. Those who vote believe that if Kashmiris don’t vote, then the elected representatives will go down the same way as the previous ones have. Many see it as political leverage in negotiating for issues such as an immediate and urgent repeal of draconian laws in force in Kashmir and the release of youth who have been booked under these laws. Some consider it important for a long-term political solution to the conflict, which they think is only possible through consistent dialogue and negotiation with New Delhi, Islamabad and Kashmir.

However, the pro Kashmir stance of Mr Rasheed actually mobilized people to follow the pursuit of electoral battle despite him having a history of launching scathing attacks on Indian establishments from the very beginning of his political career. While he has been talking about human rights violations, custodial deaths and many more plights of people from sometime, many other leaders do so only around the elections. By this attire, he actually amused people and induced sense of relief and belongingness to them and managed to increase the voter percentage in this high profile seat.

Rasheed has shown desperate desire to sit in the Parliament and one is not sure as to how he will be different than the others. He is no big cheese, but a squeaky wheel that ostracizes Indian rule but exculpates Indian election. Too early to judge if this squeaky wheel will get the grease. What needs to be seen is whether Rashid only rattles the apple cart of the mainstream parties or surprises everyone by stealing victory from his otherwise well entrenched rivals.

The writer is a Political columnist pursuing graduation in ‘Nursing’ from GMC Srinagar. tawfeeqirshad@gmail.com

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