Time to fine tune policies toward J&K, hold elections

By Sahil Mahajan 

Last week Union Home Minister Amit Shah  while unveiling the district good governance index for all the districts in Jammu and Kashmir, something which happened for the first time , underscored that his promise of restoring the statehood to J&K is unshakeable , and so is the commitment  to hold elections in the union territory , after the submission of the Delimitation Commission report. This is what the logic of the Centre has been toward J&K ever since the abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35 A  on August 5, 2019. What is more important that the Centre needs to fine tune the commitments made to the people of J&K, whose wait for the restart of the democratic process , through the Assembly elections , is getting  longer.

The Centre, which is synonymous with the BJP for the past seven and a half years, as is natural, too, because the saffron party has lived up to its nationalistic agenda , in which abrogation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir was at its core , should look at what all has happened since the fateful day of August 5, 2019. The backdrop of the big bang decision in August 2019 was different from what it is today. No one had anticipated that the pandemic would strike the world , and  India, too, would be hit hard  by the deadly disease . For almost one year since the disease overwhelmed the nations , there was no vaccine.  That time, the issues were different ; how to rid J&K off terrorism and its ill-effects and check the growth of secessionism. Politically, the objective was to create space for the new leadership by dumping a couple of  families , obviously the reference was to Abdullahs who presided over National Conference for decades, and the Mufti family which controlled PDP. 

The issues have undergone transformation . The introduction of the grassroots democracy, through Panchayat, Block Development  and District Development Councils , has made a difference to the idea of democracy to the people of J&K, but it is in deficit from their imagination and expectations from such institutions . There can be no plea that their work was hampered by the Covid-19 pandemic, because they were expected  to adopt to the fight against the virus along with the health-care institutions and society . This deficit is very glaring . 

That has sharpened the  appetite for the Assembly elections , because that is the face of the democracy in Jammu and Kashmir. That is a policy making legislative body and can get things done on its won , rather than depending on others. The elected  representatives in the Assembly give birth to the government, which can address issues of the people at their doorsteps and frame policies , as per wishes of the electorate.

Jammu, which always perceives itself as a poor cousin in the whole geographical and demographic entity of  the whole of the UT, is longing for these  institutions  more than any other region. Jammu, despite the fact that Jammu region, as per the draft report of the Delimitation Commission , has been given six more seats,  taking its total strength in the proposed House of 90 , to 43 , earlier it had only 37 seats, the narrative of the alleged discrimination with Kashmir is dominant. Kashmir has got just one more seat, but its total  of 47 is higher by four seats than what Jammu is expected to get.

The elections will provide an opportunity to the BJP to live up to its promise to give more power to the region in decision-making .That’s is to be tested. Therefore, it is important that the Centre should fine tune the whole gamut of issues concerning J&K and hold elections as early as possible.