The Bharatiya Janata Party has a lot to gain from the local body polls which are going to be held in Jammu and Kashmir. The BJP has done a commendable feat in the local body polls by giving tickets to as many as 36 Kashmiri Pandits in the Kashmir valley; it is a first of its kind happening in the state since the Kashmiri Pandits were driven out of the valley in the early 90s. By giving tickets to the Kashmiri Pandit in the valley the BJP is not only trying to restore their dignity and pride in the valley but is also giving them the much needed hope for their return to the valley. In another encouraging development the BJP has been able to win 13 of the 17 civic body polls unopposed in the infamous Shopian district of South Kashmir. Shopian has been notorious for violent protests by the Kashmiri militants and has been the site for numerous encounters between the militants and security forces of India. The BJP was able to win unopposed by fielding candidates for 13 wards, the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) meanwhile have decided to boycott the local body elections.
This is a big moment for BJP in the Kashmir valley which has enabled them to have early celebrations in the Kashmir valley. The local body elections in Jammu and Kashmir are scheduled to take place between October 8th and December 11th for both the municipal bodies and the panchayat elections. Municipal elections are being held in the state for the first time after a long gap of 13 years. Municipal elections have been held in the valley only four times in the past. The municipal elections held in 2005 too had taken place after a long gap of 27 years. BJP which was in coalition with PDP till early 2018, had tried unsuccessfully to conduct the elections in 2017 too. The recent elections were announced by the former Governor N N Vohra after he had taken charge following BJP backing out of the coalition with PDP in Kashmir which led to the fall of the government.
The boycott by the NC and PDP adds to the long list of the blockades which the local body elections have faced in the state. Without elected municipalities and panchayats the state was missing out on funds worth Rs 4,161 crore which were allotted to Jammu and Kashmir by the central government. The 14th Finance Commission had allotted the amount of money to Jammu and Kashmir for a five year period of 2015-2020. It was important for the elections to be held so that the funds available could be used for the betterment of the state at the earliest. The state in total has been suffering owing to the lack of a local body to counter the problems such as sanitation and solid waste management.
Kashmiri Pandits being nominated in the valley is a promising sign for the future which will lead to an increased presence of the original inhabitants of Kashmir in the valley. This will also make the confidence of the Kashmiri Pandit communities which are living in refuge in various states of the country go up. By backing Kashmiri Pandits in the valley BJP has sent a clear message to the militants and other residents of the valley that they are going to stand with the Kashmiri Pandits at all costs. Its win in Shopian which happened unopposed will further provide a solid foundation to the party in the state. There is too much at stake in the Kashmir valley when the local elections will be held, as many as 151 candidates out of a total of 598 wards have been declared as unopposed winners while the number will continue to rise. Jammu on the other hand has seen only five candidates winning unopposed. The rise of BJP and return of Kashmiri Pandits in the Kashmir valley might happen side by side and it is indeed news worth celebrating.