Recently, BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain in Srinagar had said the hotels in the city were full and the airport was buzzing with tourists. “Jammu & Kashmir has become a top tourist destination for the first time in the past 70 years," Hussain said this by way of declaring that "normalcy" had returned to the state. But even after three years of abrogation of Article 370, elections remain a distant sight.
When asked about when elections will be held in Jammu and Kashmir, Hussain like other BJP leaders took refuge in the “independence of the Election Commission of India” and said that the government and BJP have nothing to do with the conduct of polls. Hussain said the ECI is going to decide the timing of the elections in Jammu and Kashmir.
J&K has been without an Assembly since November 2018 when the legislative assembly was dissolved by then Governor Satya Pal Malik after PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti staked claim to form the government. Governor’s rule was imposed in the state in June 2018 after the BJP pulled out of the Mufti-led PDP-BJP coalition government.
For the past two years, the BJP leaders had been saying that elections will be held once the Delimitation Commission completes its exercise and gives its report. In May this year, the Commission finalised its two-year-long exercise by recommending the creation of six additional assembly constituencies in the Jammu region and one more in the Kashmir valley. It was expected that the completion of the process of redrawing the electoral map of Jammu and Kashmir would pave the way for assembly elections in the Union Territory (UT).
The delimitation commission’s report has been widely criticized in J&K and is seen as a gerrymandering move by the BJP. Regional political parties were nonetheless hoping that after the report, the ECI will announce the poll dates. No such announcements have been made so far.
The ECI has started work on the revised voter list and it could be issued by October 31. The work of finalising the polling station is also in the final stage. This has led to speculations that the election process can start anytime. Political parties have started holding rallies and new political parties are coming up. There are reports that along with Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, elections will also be held in Jammu and Kashmir in November-December this year. Political leaders, however, remain unsure. “I don’t think the BJP is in the mood to conduct elections,” says a senior Apni Party leader.
“A gross injustice is being done to people when they are deprived of the constitutional right of having a legislative assembly. The parliamentary elections were conducted, local body elections were conducted, what stops the government from conducting the Assembly polls,” asks Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami, spokesman of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), an alliance of the mainstream parties.