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The Election Dilemma

The Election Dilemma

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Tasneem Kabir

This Panchayati Raj system was formalized in 1992, following a study conducted by a number of Indian committees on various ways of implementing more decentralized administration. In India, the Panchayati Raj now functions as a system of governance in which gram panchayats are the basic units of local administration.

With November 17 having been issued as the date for the commencement of the panchayat polls, there is much to be deliberated, the cardinal issue being the Centre-State parties divide.

Earlier this local body election season, both the dominant regional parties viz. the National Conference and the People’s Democratic Alliance announced that they would boycott the crucial urban body elections and panchayat polls.

The reason for this shunning, as cited by both parties, is the push for the protection of the Article 35A that they claim to bear in mind and the centre seems to have an unclear stand on.

Amidst this atmosphere of palpable tension, the Centre is insistent on conducting the elections, the last of which were held as long back as 2011, as news has it that Ram Madhav, the J&K in-charge of the BJP as well as the General Secretary of the party has urged the local parties to rethink their decisions.

Days after the Governor released the schedule for the Municipal and Panchayat Elections, the intelligence agencies had warned of intense violence likely to erupt as a consequence of the elections being held. Yet, we must pause and try to unearth the reasons for this push, despite the security threats.

In the medical pantheon, there is an utterly interesting concept that is employed – the placebo. A placebo is a usually pharmacologically inert preparation prescribed more for the mental relief of the patient that for its actual effect on a disorder.

It is this concept that can lend us one context for the whole national parties-regional parties clash sprawled before us. The Centre, with its tenaciousness over the holding of the polls, might be feeling obliged to create in the minds of the citizens a semblance of order and a strong democracy so as to further their political interests in view of the Assembly elections.

Moreover, with the regional parties out of the pie chart, it seems like the perfect situation for the two national giants- Congress and BJP to garner larger, more significant pieces of the voters’ pie for themselves.

Mixed interest much? Wait for the rest of it. This is how the Government is using its insistence as a placebo. As for the regional parties, they each have much catching up to do with the expectations of your average Kashmiri, who only wants the assurance of his safety as well as the safety of the status that the state enjoys.

This perhaps led the two regions to march to such harsh beats and hence, disillusion us into believing that they champion our cause. The views herein may be absolutely incorrect after all, but can you blame me for thinking along these lines?

As for proxy candidature at the hands of the regional parties, the state of Jammu and Kashmir knows this side of the coin of ‘boycotting elections’ like no other.

Lastly, it becomes of immense pertinence to assess what lies for the elections ahead. At a time when regional parties seem to have boycotted the elections, proponents of the elections argue that with the well-to-do regional parties out, a fresh cadre of pro-election youngsters would emerge, who are participating in the elections thus forming a new ‘mainstream’ in the state, thus upholding democracy, the sheer fibre that binds the 29 states into a unified bastion.

All I would like to say here is, it is folly to deny that the Southern part of Kashmir is to be counted amongst the most troubled waters of the state, and if the Urban Body polls are any harbinger to the Panchayat Polls, the turnout from this region has been extremely low, amounting to nil.

So, a panoptic view of the situation demands to know whether this bastion of democracy would still be as sacred, without the South being party to it? Will it still be symbolic of the voice of the State, when those who most need hearing are sterilely left out of it? Let’s attempt to look past the ‘placebos’ and as allow, as Tagore put it, the mind to be led forward into ever-widening thought and action.

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