March 2019 News

De-linking Assembly And Lok Sabha Polls May See Low Turnout In Latter

11 March 2019
The Economic Times
Avinash Mohananey

New Delhi: Overruling a near unanimous demand of all political parties, both national and regional, for simultaneous parliament and assembly elections in JK, the Election Commission delinked the two while announcing the poll schedule on March 10. This demand was even acknowledged by the chief election commissioner himself, when he addressed the press conference in Jammu on March 5, after concluding his discussions with political parties and the state administration. There is little doubt that holding peaceful elections in the Valley has been an uphill and challenging task, both for the Election Commission and the state administration, since the beginning of Pakistan-backed militancy in 1989-90. In every election since then, Pakistan has been using its proxies to escalate the violence and organise protests to deter people from participating in the electoral process. While militants would raise the level of violence by targeting candidates, their supporters, public meetings, rallies, poll personnel, polling stations and security detachments, the separatists would give a call for poll boycott, strike and protests to deter the people from venturing out of their homes. The entire effort is to bring down the poll percentage thereby questioning the legitimacy of public representatives thus elected and any government formed thereafter. Although there are only three parliamentary segments in the Valley with limited geographic spread, the task becomes humongous in the backdrop of militancy, separatism and alienation. Any election in the Valley involves large mobilisation and movement of forces from across the country, who may not have the requisite sensitisation, training, experience and expertise in dealing with militancy and the vicious stone pelting that they may have to encounter. In the backdrop of Pulwama attack, far more robust security arrangements would be required for safe movement of convoys and polling parties. It seems that the Pulwama attack and the requirement of additional forces for providing security to those contesting assembly elections have influenced the decision of the Election Commission to delink assembly elections. The political parties are understandably furious over the deferment. Apart from doubling of their expenditure, political leaders will be vulnerable to militant threats twice. Despite little enthusiasm in the Valley about Lok Sabha elections, political leaders will have to go out for door to door campaign, hold public meetings and rallies and mobilise their supporters, exposing them to the threat of militants. As such, security will also have to be provided to second rung leadership of political parties, who mobilise people during campaign and on the polling day, even when assembly elections are not being held. Apart from political parties, the people also want return of popular government, as there are several day to day issues which the governors bureaucratic administration cant address. Electing members of parliament would not resolve those. The disinterest of the people will result in low polling that Pakistan would use in its propaganda against India. Like the past parliament elections, the poll percentage is likely to remain low unlike assembly elections, which are contested fiercely. On the security front, enough experience has been gained by JK Police and other security forces for smooth conduct of elections. (The author is former Intelligence Bureau official who served in JK and Pakistan)