Around a couple of months after the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution, the election authorities recently announced the elections of the Chairpersons of Block Development Councils (BDC) in the 310 blocks of the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Chief Electoral Officer Shailendra Kumar said that the elections would take place on October 24 and the counting would be held on the same day. He also said that the electoral process for the second tier of the Panchayati Raj system would also be concluded by November 5.
This is a crucial step towards ensuring the exercise of democratic rights by the people of the state. This is particularly significant given the fact that nearly 24 per cent, viz. 12,766 panch and sarpanch posts are currently lying vacant in the state on account of several reasons such as resignations, deaths and non-conduct of the polls during the exercise held last winter.
This creates a leadership vacuum at the grassroots level and the elections to be held shortly would do away with this vacuum by giving the people of the state the right to pick new political leaders and bring about a more constructive, people-centric form of polity in the state.
This would have ushered a new era in Jammu and Kashmir politics. However, Congress has startlingly decided to boycott the polls in Jammu and Kashmir.
Making it clear that the grand old party won’t contest the upcoming polls, state Congress president, G A Mir said, “The Congress believes in strengthening of democratic institutions and never shied away from any polls. But today, we are compelled to take a decision to boycott BDC polls due to indifferent attitude of the state administration and continued detention of senior party leaders in the valley.”
Apart from the Congress, the local parties in the state- National Conference (NC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) have already boycotted the polls in utter disregard of India’s democracy and the importance of local-level representation.
The Congress along with the two local parties is behaving like a separatist group rather than a national mainstream party. This reeks of utter disregard of the democratic values that India espouses and also displays a narrow political mindset. The grand old party and the local parties in the state are boycotting the elections which are the sine qua non of any functional democracy only because they are unable to fathom the kind of popularity that the BJP is enjoying ever since the historic decision of abrogation of Article 370 that was announced on August 5.
Out of political insecurity, these parties are comprising upon the democratic aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and an opportunity to enhance the internal security situation of the country when it comes to the strategically located state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Instead of taking part in the upcoming polls and performing its duty as a political party, the Congress is only belittling the democratic values of India by resonating the opinion voiced by the likes of Shehla Rashid.
This is symbolic of how anti-democratic forces have come together with detractory remarks that can inhibit the right of the people of Jammu and Kashmir when it comes to electing their representatives at the grassroots level.
While quitting, Shehla Rashid repeated the lie of the Indian government abducting Kashmiri children. She repeated this lie even though a recent Juvenile Justice Committee (JJC) report of Jammu and Kashmir High Court comprising four high-court judges, dated September 26, has quashed the lies and propaganda peddled to the effect that as many as 13,000 teenagers have been arrested and that young boys are being tortured in the so-called Kashmir clampdown.
Shehla Rashid’s political career was practically over with the abrogation of Article 370. Her decision to quit from electoral politics was therefore just a face-saving device. However, she has tried to justify her decision through lies and fake propaganda about the present situation in Kashmir. Such baseless allegations and lies only inflict damage upon India’s democratic setup.
By spreading falsehoods and lies about the present situation in Kashmir, elements like Rashid and the Congress are inflicting heavy damage upon the democratic rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.