Voters’ indifference bad for democracy

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Now that the election to the three Lok Sabha seats of Kashmir Valley is almost over with an exception of Pulwama and Shopian districts of south Kashmir, the voters’ participation in the polls, except north Kashmir, has been too dismal. It goes to the credit of the Governor administration that elections, by all standards, where peaceful, in comparison to several states in rest of India, but the less poll percentage should, more than anyone else, make the mainstream parties to ponder upon. Unlike previous elections, including 2017 by-elections, there was no aggressive poll boycott campaign by the separatists and the violent incidents too were just a few. Still people stayed away from the polls. Why?

Separatist groups may be patting themselves but fact of the matter is that no one in Kashmir even discussed their poll boycott statements seriously. Yes, threat of the militant gun could be a reason of less percentage but not THE REASON. There is something terribly wrong with the politicking of mainstream parties, particularly the major two regional ones – National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party. Two top leaders of these parties – Dr Farooq Abdullah from central Kashmir and Mehbooba Mufti from south Kashmir – are contesting elections. These two leaders are faces and identities of their respective parties which have ruled the state. Still in these two segments, the two top leaders couldn’t enthuse the voters to come out and vote. Why?

Is it that people have seen too much of them? Is it that people have tested them and they have failed their tests? It is that the two parties have lost the core of their respective ideologies that was attracting people towards them? Is it that they have lost the trust of the majority of the people? There could be a lot of questions that are being raised by the peoples’ indifference and none other than the rank and file of these two major parties can identify and try to answer the most relevant question.

People have seen National Conference ruling the state. They are well aware of the track record of the party. Same is true about PDP. Promises were made and promises were never kept. They have seen NC leadership, while in power, talking about revocation of AFSPA within its tenure and then doing nothing but contesting a new election on the promise of revoking the Act (this time). They have seen PDP leadership talking of self rule and then aligning with BJP, which is hell bent on doing away with the Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that grants a special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. They have all these memories fresh in their minds and thus all those slogans of defending Article 370 and 35 A, restoring autonomy, repealing ‘draconian laws’, failed to lure them and thus they didn’t vote.

For a vibrant democracy, massive participation of people in electoral politics is a must. The more people participate, the more chance of good people getting elected. Kashmir Valley’s three seats will have no impact in shaping up the post 2019 India, but the trend of people staying away from polls, if continues during state Assembly elections too, may have an adverse impact over the formation of local government here. While it is high time that separatists rethink over their time tested and failed election boycott strategy, the mainstream political parties will have to connect with the masses, feel their pulse, understand and appreciate their indifference and try to convince them that it is their vote that can make a real difference.

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