Strengthening political process
Fifth phase of the DDC elections has culminated peacefully and in the all five phases people have shown quite some enthusiasm regarding the voting and thus came out in good numbers. The elections are being held to strengthen the three-tier panchayti raj in Jammu and Kashmir thus taking the democracy to the grass root level. Fortunately, all the five phases have ended peacefully and hopefully remaining three phases too would be conducted in a peaceful manner and would see respectable participation.
It has been more than one year since the government of India did away with the Article 370 of Indian Constitution, that gave a special status to then Jammu and Kashmir state among the rest of the states. The state was bifurcated into two union territories – Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir. However, Jammu and Kashmir was declared a UT with Assembly. Without going into the debate that whether GoI’s decision was constitutional or not; legal or not; moral or not, one thing that need to be taken note of is that since Aug 05, 2019, there has been no political movement in Jammu and Kashmir on any front. Most of the leaders of mainstream political parties were detained post August 05 and remained under detention for several months. Absence of these leaders from the scene resulted into absence of politics in the UT and such absence was, in no way, was good for the health of a democracy. Democracy is battle of ideas. All the political players, keeping the interest of the people and the nation paramount, have their own ways of looking at the situation and hunting for the answers to the questions haunting their people. Approaches could be different, ideologies could be different, modus operandi could be different but the goal remains the same – working for welfare of people and the nation. These differences are what make democracy a beautiful concept.
Following the announcement regarding holding of DDC elections, almost all mainstream regional parties took a wise decision and decided to participate in these elections. In democracies, elections, be it to for the parliament, assembly or panchayat institutions, are the only way to ensure peoples’ participation in the democratic process. J&K needed initiation of a political process and the DDC elections have proved a catalyst in this regard. Bureaucratic rule, no matter how efficient it would be, can never be a substitute to a popular government. The political leaders are connected with masses, they know their aspirations and grievances in a better way which bureaucrats can’t have an idea about. Even small time political workers of a village are more connected to the masses than SDMs and Tehsildars. Need is to strengthen the politics, provide a healthy atmosphere wherein a political process takes routes afresh. There is a huge difference between the rulers, mandated by the public to rule, and the rulers, appointed by the Centre to rule. The former are the ones who could be described as representatives of the public and thus they should be on the wheel while making decisions for the public good.
Ideally, following the re-organisation of erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, the GoI should have geared up for holding elections to the UT assembly. However, more than a year down the line, nothing of the sort has happened and whether the powers, that be, like it or not, people of Jammu and Kashmir are unrepresented from last one year. Whatever decisions are being made have no or very little input from the people of Jammu and Kashmir and that is not how it should be. Now that the DDC elections have once again provided much needed oxygen to the otherwise dying political process, let this process be further strengthened by making arrangements for a smooth, fair, free and credible assembly election.