Thursday, Dec 01, 2022

Jammu And Kashmir: Why Elections May Not Be Held In The Valley For A Long Time

Jammu And Kashmir: Why Elections May Not Be Held In The Valley For A Long Time

While Elections are being announced in other states, Jammu Kashmir is left out. How long does the government plan to keep the union territory under president's rule?

Representational Image PTI

The Election Commission of India has announced polls for five states: Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Manipur, Punjab and Uttarakhand but Jammu and Kashmir has been left out in the cold. 

Mainstream political parties in the state say that the omission of J&K indicates the government has the plan to keep it under the President's rule.

“The ECI and the Government of India need to answer, why J&K should be singled out and be deprived of having a democratically elected government even after five years of Governor’s rule,” asks NC leader Tanvir Sadiq. 

He says, if the government has taken an excuse for the Delimitation exercise, then did they not hold elections in Assam by withholding the Delimitation process.

“If the excuse is increasing the seats, did they increase the seats in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana? Didn't they hold elections in these states without Delimitation?” he asks.

BJP General Secretary, Ashok Koul says the elections will not be held till the Delimitation Commission submits its report. “Elections in J&K are due but let the Commission submit its report first then it will be decided,” he says.

However, Congress party J&K president GA Mir is skeptical about polls even after the Delimitation Commission gives its report. 
“During the all parties meeting with the Prime Minister all parties demanded polls in J&K after the restoration of the statehood to J&K. The government has been adamant that it will first present the Delimitation Commission report, then elections will be held and then there could be the restoration of the statehood,” says Mir. 

He says the Delimitation Commission's draft report has made everyone in J&K unhappy and after the final report comes to a lot of resentment among different sections will be seen and no one knows what the BJP government comes up after the Delimitation Commission. 

"That is why I don't see any possibility of the polls even after the Delimitation Commission submits its report," says Mir.

A senior leader of Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Alliance pleading anonymity says the government cites the Delimitation Commission and other excuses for not restoring statehood in J&K and holding elections. 

“I personally believe it is not the Delimitation Commission report or anything that the BJP is waiting for. The BJP is waiting for the outcome of the UP polls to talk about restoration of statehood or elections in J&K. How politics will play out in J&K, depends upon whether BJP wins in UP or not,” he says.  

In 2020 the Delimitation Commission panel was set up to redraw the electoral constituencies of Jammu and Kashmir and four northeastern states — Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland. 

However, the one-year extension was given for Jammu and Kashmir when it was coming to end on March 5, 2021.  In December 2021, the Delimitation Panel in its draft recommendation proposed six additional seats for the Jammu region and one for Kashmir Valley even though the Kashmir region has more population than Jammu evoking a sharp response from mainstream parties in the Valley. 

The mainstream parties have rejected the recommendations of the Commission.

“There is no reason to single out Jammu and Kashmir for polls and not to wait to initiate Delimitation exercise alongside the rest of the country.  One thing is clear that when the election to the assembly in J&K will be held they will be the most important ever elections for all stakeholders,” says Sadiq.  

Jammu and Kashmir is without an elected government since June 2018. In June 2018, the BJP broke its alliance with PDP forcing the chief minister of the PDP-BJP alliance Mehbooba Mufti to resign. Five months later, on November 28, 2018, then Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik dissolved the legislative assembly minutes after Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP staked claim to form the government with the support of Congress and National Conference. A month later on December 19, 2018, President Ram Nath Kovind issued a proclamation promulgating President's Rule in J&K under article 356 of the Constitution of India. Eight months later, the BJP government abrogated Article 370 and bifurcated Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories, Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

Usually, ECI should have held the polls within six months of the dissolution of assembly as the government has been claiming that the law and order situation has improved in J&K after the dissolution of Assembly in J&K and J&K. But the ECI continues to drag its feet on Assembly polls.

Even on June 28, 2019, Union home minister Amit Shah had said the government has done a lot to end “terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and now that the law and order situation has improved, assembly elections can be held in the state within the next six months.” The promise of elections came from the government when Shah tabled the bill in the Lok Sabha for an extension of the President's Rule in J&K.
A senior political leader says the BJP wants to ensure not to have elections till it ensures that only BJP comes into power in J&K through gerrymandering of the delimitation commission. “It looks the government is not sure of it yet even after draft delimitation commission report and hence the ECI is dragging its feet on polls,” says the leader.