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The Grass Root Democracy’s Walkover

The Grass Root Democracy’s Walkover

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After completion of the urban local body elections in Jammu and Kashmir, the voting was held for the first three phases of panchayat elections in the state.

The remaining six phases will be held in coming days till December 11. The Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) called people to stay away from these polls and observe complete boycott like they did in the urban local body elections in which mere 4 percent people cast their votes.

Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chairman Yasin Malik while asking people to boycott the elections said that boycott in the local body elections has exposed New Delhi.

However, in the first phase of panchayat elections around 74.1 percent people voted. The polling in the first phase was held in those areas where there is negligible presence of militancy or separatists don’t have much influence.

However, according to election officials Kashmir witnessed around 65 percent polling. Only in Ganderbal, Srinagar and Kunzer blocks the polling percentage was less than 20 percent.

All other places witnessed brisk polling. At Uri where 84 percent polling was recorded, there was also clash between workers of different political parties.

After lacklustre participation in the urban local body polls by the local population had even raised question mark over these elections and many termed the polls as “farce”.

The 14 districts of Jammu and Kashmir that went to the second phase polling of panchayat elections on Tuesday, witnessed an overall turnout of 71.1 percent.

According to J&K chief electoral officer Shaleen Kabra, an overwhelming 80.4% polling was witnessed in Jammu division and 52.2% in Kashmir division.

Sharing district-wise details, Kabra said that the highest voting of 83.9% was registered in Udhampur in Jammu division while 69.7% was highest turnout of 69.7% was witnessed in the Valley. Among the lowest stood Anantnag with mere 1% voters exercising their franchise.

In the third phase of elections Kashmir recorded 48.2 percent voter turnout in the third phase of Panchayat polls. The overall polling percentage in the state stood at 75.2 percent.

Encouraged by the voting percentage J-K Governor Satya Pal Malik termed people’s participation in elections as an encouraging sign and complimented the civil and police administration for ensuring free, fair and peaceful Phase-I of Panchayat Polls in the State with an overwhelming participation of the people.

Malik said that 74% voting in the Phase-I is a clear mandate of the people for strengthening grassroots democracy.

He said it is heartening to note that people turned up in large numbers not only in Jammu region but also in Kashmir to exercise their franchise in these elections.

“At 64% voting in Kashmir division, the Valley has given thumbs up to strengthening the grassroots democracy,” he said and adding that some areas in Kashmir have shown impressive turnout in the given circumstances with Kupwara at 72%, Baramulla at 69%, Bandipora at 55.7%, Budgam at 30% and Srinagar at 21.8%.

In last panchayat elections which were held in 2011 more than 75 percent people participated in these polls. Despite many panches and sarpanches were killed in last six years and threats by militants, the turnout in Kashmir could be termed good. In the phase 1 of polling was not held in four districts of South Kashmir.

It remains to be seen whether other phases will also attract same enthusiasm or it will be the repeat of the urban local body elections.

Though two big mainstream parties didn’t participate in the urban local body polls, however, there are reports from ground the workers of these two parties are participating in these elections as they have seen that their absence from the scene could give rise to a new political force in Kashmir which they don’t want.

At one point of time National Conference had even threatened that they could also boycott upcoming assembly elections.

And recently when BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav who was in Srinagar to meet the city’s newly elected Mayor Junaid Azim Mattu and other corporators questioned the move.

“They (PDP and NC) say they’ll boycott elections until the matter of 35A is resolved. On the other hand, they ask to dissolve the assembly and call for an election. Let me ask you if there’s an election in the near future, will you contest it or boycott it?,”  Ram Madhav had said. But NC vice president Omar Abdullah gave him prompt reply.

“You got the control of a handful of towns & cities because NC & PDP (People’s Democratic Party) stayed away (and the Congress did such a poor job of putting up a fight) do you really think we will give you a walkover in the Assembly polls?” Omar Abdullah said.

The state has been under Governor’s Rule since June 20 following the resignation of chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, who quit after her PDP-led government lost the support of its alliance partner, the BJP.  Since then assembly is in suspended animation.

However after dramatic political developments when Mehbooba Mufti and Sajjad Lone staked claim for government formation governor dissolved the assembly and there is every possibility fresh elections will be held in next six months.

The regional parties including PDP and NC leaders have demanded dissolution of Assembly and conduct of early polls in the state. However Centre had no plans to dissolve the assembly.

After NC, PDP and Congress decided to form a coalition government, the governor dissolved the assembly. After good participation from people in the panchayat elections, BJP and its allies were hopeful that government could be formed. However after fresh political developments the governor dissolved assembly.

Earlier the BJP leaders along with allies Sajjad Lone were exploring possibilities of forming government in coming months.

Boycott by NC and PDP-BJP managed to win 100 seats in urban local body polls. The Centre has hinted that governor’s rule would continue for some time J-K. Recently senior PDP leader and MP Baramulla Muzuffar Beigh said that PDP should have never boycotted polls as they ditched their workers and legislators and the space which was vacant has been occupied and also dropped hinted of joining Sajjad Lone’s Peoples Conference.

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