Heavy Turnout In Polls Should Be Eye-opener For Hurriyat: Baig
30 January 2005
The Daily Excelsior
Srinagar: The heavy turnout in the first phase of civic polls in Jammu and Kashmir should be an eye-opener for the separatist camp to wake up to the ground realities that boycott of elections does not contribute to peace and developmental issues, a senior State Minister has said. 'Civic polls have shown the mirror to Hurriyat Conference and they should be realistic enough to see the ground realities,' Minister for Finance Muzaffar Hussain Baig told visiting reporters here. 'I hope they have the courage to open their eyes and look into the mirror. If they claim to represent the people, they will have to be moderate. (but) if they listen to someone else's voice they will be more rigid,' the Minister said. Ten Municipal Committees and Councils of Baramulla and Kupwara district went to polls yesterday in which around 60 per cent of the electorate exercised their franchise despite a boycott call given by Hurriyat and a looming threat of attacks by militants. Baig said people of the State have realised that boycotting the polls does not contribute to peace and developmental process. Civic polls have shown an elementary transformation in the thinking of the people, he added. He said Hurriyat Conference had unwisely made the civic polls an issue. Now they should listen to the people's verdict. Asked if the response to the civic polls had rendered Hurriyat Conference irrelevant, the Minister said that will too 'presumptuous'. 'We cannot say they are totally irrelevant.' Describing the results of the civic polls as an endorsement of ruling People's Democratic Party-led Government's policies, Baig said we believe in taking a step forward and building on it. We did not contest the polls on the autonomy issue but on development and peace process that is going on for the past two years, he said apparently referring to main opposition National Conference's oft-repeated slogan that restoring autonomy to the State was the only solution to Kashmir issue. The Minister said Government of India should also draw lessons from the outcome of the civic polls and instead of getting involved in this or that formula for resolution of Kashmir. People of the State do not want a dramatic change in the ongoing peace process. People voted for development and peace and not any particular form of resolution to Kashmir issue, he added. PDP and its coalition partner Congress bagged more than half the seats out 130 that went to polls yesterday while National Conference managed only 19. Independents, mostly supported by PDP and Congress, also had a good run as they bagged the remainder of the seats.