Prof Hari Om
JAMMU: The first-ever electoral exercise to elect 10 District Development Councils (DDCs) in Jammu and an equal number of DDCs in Kashmir is in full swing. Voting in six of the eight-phase polls has taken place. Jammu witnessed 64% voting in the first phase, 65.5% in the second, 68.88% in the third, 69.31% in the fourth, 66.7% in the fifth and 68.56% in the sixth phase (December 13). Elections took place in 107 territorial constituencies in six phases of polls in Jammu province. Indeed, Jammu province witnessed high voter turnout and it meant Jammu’s full faith in the country’s political and democratic processes.As for Kashmir, it witnessed 36% voting in the first phase, 33.3% in the second. 31.61 in the third, 31.95% in the fourth, 33.57% in the fifth and 31.55% in the sixth phase. Kashmiris exercised their right to vote in 114 territorial constituencies during the six phases of DDC polls.It’s heartening to note that elections in all the six phases took place in a highly peaceful environment. Leave aside a couple of minor violent incidents here and there in the Union Territory. There was no coercion. No poll boycott call given by any terror outfit. Voters ventured out of their houses on their own to exercise their right to franchise. The DDCs, when constituted, will mark the end of decades-old domination of the self-centred and opportunistic political class over the grassroots level democracy.Jammu province witnessed intense election campaign with many Union Ministers and top central BJP leaders crisscrossing the length and breadth of the UT. They left no stone unturned to enlist people’s support for the party candidates. They all sought to tell the voters that the ongoing electoral exercise in the UT was an election between nationalists and pro-China and pro-Pakistan elements as represented by what they repeatedly termed “Gupkar Gang” and corrupt two Kashmir-based dynasties – Abdullah and Mufti – and the Congress, mother of all ills.Significantly, the ailing Sonia-led AICC left the whole electoral exercise in the J&K UT to the care of local Congress leaders. Only one central leader (in-charge J&K) visited Jammu for a day to muster people’s support for the Congress candidates. So much so, even Leader of Opposition and former JK Chief Minister and ex-JKPCC chief Ghulam Nabi Azad didn’t visit J&K even once to campaign for the party candidates. But more than that, a number of senior Congress leaders either fielded their own wards against the official Congress candidates or they themselves contested the polls against the party candidates. It happened particularly in Jammu province.However, what was the most striking aspect of the whole situation was the conspicuous absence of top Gupkaris like Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti from the election campaign both in Kashmir and Jammu. They, like the AICC, too, left the Gupkari candidates to fend for themselves. They only made a couple of appeals to voters from their Gupkar-based palatial houses. The upshot of their whole appeal was that the DDC polls were politically very significant; the Kashmiri voters must vote in large numbers for the Gupkari candidates so that the hands of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) were strengthened and the Narendra Modi Government forced to return to Kashmir what it snatched on August 5-6, 2019. That Kashmir witnessed low voter turnout as compared to Jammu province speaks for itself. It also speaks about the people’s response to the appeals made by Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti. The election campaign of the newly-founded Altaf Bukhari-headed J&K Apni Party was also not that hectic. The fact of the matter is that hardly anyone in the UT knew how many candidates the Gupkaris, the Gupkaris’ political friend Congress and JK Apni Party fielded in Jammu province. Not just this, many Gupkaris contested polls against the official Gupkari candidates both in Kashmir and Jammu with the concurrence of their respective leaders. Some PAGD leaders described these contests as “friendly contests”.Two other players in the electoral arena were JK Panthers Party and Ikkjutt Jammu, which turned political only on November 13. The Panthers Party leadership confined their election campaign only to a few territorial constituencies in Udhampur and Samba districts. As for the Ikkjutt Jammu, it fielded its candidates in several territorial constituencies across Jammu province and its leadership also campaigned for the party candidates in its own style.As said, the electoral exercise took place in a peaceful environment. However, instead of appreciating the manner in which elections were held across UT of J&K in the first five phases, PAGD vice-chairperson and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti and another top Gupkari, former J&K CM and NC vice-president Omar Abdullah on December 10 accused the powers-that-be in Delhi and Jammu, Election Department and the Army of rigging elections in favour certain parties. Obviously, they hinted at the J&K BJP and the JK Apni Party. The Gupkaris denounce JK Apni Party day and night as “B-team of the BJP and a party of the agencies”.What did Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah say on December 10? Mehbooba Mufti, among other things said: “Security forces have cordoned Matrimugh in Shopian and are not allowing people to come out to vote under the pretext of inputs about presence of militants. In a brazen display of power, armed forces are being used to rig this election and favour a particular party”. As for Omar Abdullah, he, inter-alia, said: “The keepers of the law are more than happy to become law breakers if it serves their interest of cosying up to the BJP and its offshoots in Kashmir. The entire machinery of the administration has taken upon itself the responsibility of helping the BJP in the DDC polls”.What these Gupkaris said was nothing but a manifestation of their frustration and desperation. They should have questioned their own leadership. They should have examined why 70% Kashmiri voters didn’t come out to participate in the electoral process. That they didn’t do that and that they only accused the authorities of rigging elections need to be construed as a desperate attempt on their part to hide their own failure. It needs to be underlined that not one report on the alleged rigging of polls has emanated from any territorial constituencies in Kashmir. The Gupkaris would do well to not make false and spurious claims. Even otherwise, Abdullahs and ilk have no moral and political right to question the ongoing electoral exercise. The reason: They are known for rigging almost all the electoral exercises in the Valley.
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