A non-event in J&K
As the rest of India gears up for the parliamentary elections 2004, a disillusioned and tired electorate in Jammu and Kashmir awaits the polls with disinterest
BY Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal
While the ‘India shining’ campaign is the illusory issue of the
poll campaign in the rest of the coun-
In a state where violence and anarchy rule and where human rights have been so blatantly violated, one would imagine that peace would be a good poll agenda. In a state where corruption is so rampant and unemployment has assumed menacing proportions, where backward far-flung areas, especially in the hilly regions, remain neglected and unattended as the alienation experienced for several decades grows deeper with each year, there is no dearth of problems and issues facing the people. These, logically, should be the issues for the polls.
But this is wishful thinking. For a voter, this agenda has been
used as opportunistic bait in previous elections after which they were relegated
to memory. Therefore, what stares us in the face as we approach the Lok Sabha
polls 2004 is total disinterest and complete disenchantment in a majority of
voters in Jammu and Kashmir.
Despite the single vote (by Saifuddin Soz during the
no-confidence motion in 1999) that led to the fall of the Vajpayee government,
victorious parliamentarians from the state are hardly seen as major players in
policy making vis-à-vis J&K or associated with bringing any change for the
people of the state.
In 2002, people from the Valley voted against the National Conference mainly on issues of basic daily needs. Not on issues of peace and their political future.
In the Lok Sabha polls 2004, even bread and butter issues have taken a back seat. The PDP led coalition, which has been unable to contain corruption in administration, arrest unemployment or even minimise human rights violations as promised, has failed miserably. This has led to disenchantment.
As for the Jammu region and despite its diversity, the disinterest matches the disenchantment of the Valley. In the last few years, the two parliamentary seats have alternatively gone to either the BJP or the Congress. Things have not changed much. For the voter in the urban areas, it is their larger affiliations to either the Congress or the BJP, not issues that will determine where they cast their vote. The rural areas stand divided.
For the people on the borders, the plight of the displaced and
farmers may be an issue that determines electoral choice. For the people in the
hill districts of Rajouri-Poonch, a major bone of contention would be the Pahari
versus Gujjar issue against the backdrop of the state government supporting a
resolution for scheduled status to Paharis, which is likely to affect the fate
of Gujjars who have already benefited under the reserved category. In all
probability, the polls in the entire Jammu region may eventually turn out to be
a caste war between the failed heavyweights of already discredited parties.
So, while poll talk dominates the rest of the country, J&K braces up coolly for a non-event. Elections here will manifest only as political aggression or media hype. For the people, they are a ritual that needs to be undergone.
(Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal is executive editor, Kashmir Times).
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