J&K Municipal Polls 2018: Participation Despite assassinations, death threats and poll boycott calls

Md. Sadiq

8 October 2018

Despite assassinations, death threats and boycott calls, majority of people in the state of Jammu & Kashmir are in favour of elections that will bring back grassroots democracy denied to them by power hungry regional political parties.

The two regional political parties - National Conference (NC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) - which have ruled the state for the past few decades have been extremely reluctant to devolve power to the grassroots for various selfish reason. One reason is that empowerment at the grassroots would mean relinquishing control over a big chunk of government funds earmarked for economic development. Not surprisingly, these two political parties whose reputation in the state is in tatters have chosen to boycott the municipal and panchayat polls. They have used the excuse of the Article 35A adjudication issue to condemn the polls.

The Separatist elements have called the polls a farce which is not unusual since they do not believe in democracy but in a theocracy or military dictatorship preferably of Pakistani generals. The terrorists too who get their orders mostly from across the border have threatened to kill all those who dare contest in the elections. It is in this backdrop that one has to see the astonishing response to the polls across the state. The polls are expected to be good in majority areas of the state barring pockets in the Kashmir Valley.

A total of 16,97,291 eligible electors will vote for candidates in 1,145 wards across the state of Jammu and Kashmir in four phases on 8, 10, 13 and 16 October 2018. The response is expected to be good in two out of the three divisions in the state.

The "status of Nominations as on 5 October 2018" issued by the Chief Electoral officer of the state showed that only two municipal corporations had attracted no candidates. This is the Frisal and Khrew municipalities in south Kashmir's Kulgam and Pulwama districts which are the hotbeds of terrorism. The Frisal and Khrew municipalities each consisting of 13 wards have no candidates for the polls, which is not surprising given the death threats and general level of insecurity in this township.

Each and every other municipality in the state, totalling 82, have witnessed nominations despite the determination of the separatists and their supporters to thwart the polls. Of the total of 1145 wards which go to the polls, 3372 nominations were of which 3293 were found valid.

As is to be expected two out of the three regions of the state - Jammu and Ladakh - have had excellent response to the polls. Candidates here have filed nomination papers without fear of the gun and the hatred and covert threats by the two mainstream political parties that have issued a poll boycott.

In Leh and Kargil towns where there are 13 wards each, the total number of valid nominations are 104 and there is expected to be keen competition.

In the Jammu region, the response has been equally good. This region consists of the districts of Jammu, Doda, Kathua, Ramban, Reasi, Kishtwar, Poonch, Rajouri, Udhampur and Samba. These districts have a total of 37 municipalities in them out the total of 82 in the state. The influence of terrorism being low or non-existent in most parts of this region, has meant that people can vote fearlessly and candidates participate in the polls without fear of assassination. In Jammu city, 447 candidates will contest 75 wards.

The Kashmir Valley has 43 municipal corporations spread out across ten districts out of which those in the northern reaches have seen a decent response despite the best attempts by separatists, terrorists and the two boycotting political parties to intimidate candidates and voters. The districts in the Kashmir division are Anantnag, Bandipora, Baramullah, Budgam, Ganderbal, Kupwara, Srinagar, Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam.

Several municipal wards in these districts will see no elections but on the whole there will be some participation in virtually all municipalities. According to one newspaper report, as many as 169 wards of a total of about598 wards in the Kashmir Valley will see no contest.

The worst affected districts are the three notorious districts of south Kashmir - Shopian, Pulwama and Kulgam. These three relatively sparsely populated districts have a total of ten municipal corporations with 126 wards and about 83,000 voters. A more detailed picture will show the situation better:


District

Municipality

No of Wards

Valid Nominations

Pulwama

Tral

13

4

Pulwama

Awantipora

13

2

Pulwama

Pampore

17

5

Pulwama

Khrew

13

0

Pulwama

Pulwama

13

3

Shopian

Shopian

17

12

Kulgam

Kulgam

13

5

Kulgam

Devsar

8

9

Kulgam

Yaripora

6

3

Kulgam

Frisal

13

0


The situation in the northern parts of the Kashmir Valley is much better even though here too there have been threats and voter intimidation.


District

Municipality

No of Wards

Valid Nominations

Kupwara

Kupwara

13

43

Kupwara

Handwara

13

29

Kupwara

Langate

13

15

Bandipora

Bandipora

17

48

Bandipora

Hajin

13

10

Bandipora

Sumbal

13

40

Baramulla

Baramulla

21

40

Baramulla

Sopore

21

8

Baramulla

Pattan

13

17

Baramulla

Kunzar

7

7

Baramulla

Uri

13

32

Baramulla

Watergam

13

15


In the rest of the four districts of the Kashmir Valley is the picture is mixed but even here candidates have braved all threats to fight for grassroots democracy.


District

Municipality

No of Wards

Valid Nominations

Ganderbal

Ganderbal

17

45

Srinagar

Srinagar

74

285

Budgam

Budgam

13

15

Budgam

Charar-i-Sharief

13

13

Budgam

Beerwah

13

1

Budgam

Magam

13

14

Budgam

Chadoora

13

10

Budgam

Khansahib

7

7

Anantnag

Anantnag

25

58

Anantnag

Achabal

8

8

Anantnag

Bijbehara

17

5

Anantnag

Kokernag

13

16

Anantnag

Mattan

13

21

Anantnag

Pehalgam

13

8

Anantnag

Qazigund

7

8

Anantnag

Doru Varinag

17

29

Anantnag

Ashmugam

13

8

Anantnag

Seer Hamdan

13

2


Candidates have come forward for the polls in places where the security is better and the strength of the separatists and terrorists relatively low.

However, many wards have only a single candidate who have therefore won uncontested.

The pre-poll days have also witnessed violence and killings. Two National Conference (NC) workers were killed and another injured after unknown gunmen opened fire on them in downtown Srinagar.

Unfortunately, media headlines have been dominated by negatives and by the situation in the worst terrorist affected parts of the state. The fact that the majority areas in the state have reacted positively to the efforts to bring back grassroots democracy to the state has not been highlighted.



Md Sadiq

8 October 2018

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