Asem Mohiuddin Panchayat
With Governor NN Vohra in rule for over a month, the Jammu and Kashmir is bracing up for a massive electoral exercise to elect over 30000 panchs and sarpanchs in coming months. In this regard Vohra has already passed the directions to the concerned authorities to prepare the ground for the Panchayat elections in state.
However, it doesn’t stop here; the much delayed municipal elections for 80 municipal bodies would also be held under the governor’s rule. The elections for the grass root level democracy are to be held at a time when the state is reeling under the worst phase of political and security crisis.
The democratically elected government led by PDP president Mehbooba Mufti is over after a month back BJP, its former ally pulled out of it in state calling an end to the three years of political partnership.
At the same time, the recent militancy report revealed by the government of India in Parliament threw a chilling data in public domain with no let up in militancy related activities in valley. The data reveals that the year 2018 so far has witnessed the highest number of militants and security forces causalities followed by civilians.
On the other side the militants have already started issuing the warning for public for not participating in the “sham” electoral process. The Pakistan based militant outfit Lashker-e-toiba is first to warn the public against this grass root level exercise.
Even last year when the state government was mulling to hold the panchayat elections, the operational commander of Hizbul Mujahidin Riyaz Naikoo threatened to spray acid on the faces of all those who contest these elections.
While such threats are external the people are facing in valley, back in the mainstream politics, it has been seen that successive regimes have not only failed to conduct the elections for these local bodies and municipals to decentralize the powers to the doorsteps of common people, however, on occasions they further eroded the system to demonize the institutions and retain the powers in central secretariat.
Instead of conducting the panchayat elections, the worst to see was when the PDP-BJP government in 2016 together brought a bill in the assembly and amended Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, 1989. Under the amendment the elections for the Sarpanchs would be held indirectly by the wards elected by people-preferably on party basis.
The state Administrative Council, however brought an amendment after it took over the state affairs and approved the amendment in Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, 1989 by which the elections for the sarpanch will be directly held.
“This will restore the original position in the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, 1989, which provided for direct elections of Sarpanches, a position altered by an amendment passed in 2016”, said an official spokesman after approving the amendment.
To ensure the dividends of prosperity and development reaches to the last person of the country, the existence of such grass root level institutions is must. However, Jammu and Kashmir which attains the position of most corrupt and inefficient state in the country is absolutely bereft of it.
The only time in recent past the elections were held for Panchayat Raj was in 2011. However, the then coalition government of Congress and National Conference led by Omar Abdullah failed to hold the three tier elections to strengthen the grass root level democracy.
This was despite the fact that more than 65 per cent people participated in the elections notwithstanding the threat calls by the militant groups. It was evidently clear that not the militancy but the mainstream leadership failed the people and institution at that time.
In absence of these institutions Jammu and Kashmir is deprived of massive central funding which is aimed to uplift the rural infrastructure. The three decades of insurgency has really bent the developmental scenario in Kashmir in particular and state in general. In case the governor succeeds in holding the local body and Panchayat polls, it will bring a paradigm shift in the state’s political landscape.
Meanwhile, the political parties in the state are more willing in holding the Assembly elections since the governor has put the Assembly in suspended animation for next six months after demise of PDP-BJP regime. In a report published in firstpost, the leaders of all the political parties have criticized the governor for not dissolving the assembly and instead preparing ground for Panchayat elections.
“By keeping the Assembly in suspended animation, the governor is promoting horse trading. The Assembly has been kept in suspended animation to allow government formation, but the governor has not talked of Assembly elections at all. The decision has to be taken by the governor himself; we have put forth our views,” senior Congress leader GN Monga said.
National Conference provincial president for Kashmir, Nasir Aslam Wani, also maintained that the Assembly be dissolved to prevent horse trading. “We are seeking that the Assembly be dissolved, or the business of horse trading will go on,” he told firstpost.
Meanwhile, the All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference stated that they are willing to contest the elections, if government is planning to hold anytime.
They however, warned that no political party shall politicize the exercise which has serious repercussions in troubled valley on ground as such elections are purely apolitical.
“This is important to establish local governing institutions but such institutions should not be attached with any kind of politics. Ours is a community institution and it has nothing to do with any kind of politics in the state of Jammu and Kashmir,” Shafiq Mir Chairman All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference told The Legitimate.
“So for the security situation is concerned. It is only gunmen to decide and see whether the situation is right or not. To us this is not a political exercise. It is just an exercise to establish local developmental institutions,” he added.