Why local body election results in Kashmir are a game changer
While it is easy to dismiss local body elections as non-political, the fact is it gives the Central government direct access and reach to the grassroots.
- Total Shares
Even as I got down to pen this article, came the tragic deaths in Kulgam.
It is not uncanny anymore that every time the narrative seems to be slipping out of the grasp of anti-India elements in the Valley, these desperate acts are triggered as warning. The fact that these desperate acts apparently enjoy the tacit support of both the NC and the PDP makes it diabolic. I am glad that instead of getting deterred by this nefarious game and giving in like the Congress always did, the Modi government has charted out a resolute course.
The change, as manifested by the results of the local body elections, is just about beginning to show.
There are several facts that corroborate that ground reality is indeed changing fast in Kashmir.
An overall voting percentage of 35 per cent is not bad if you take into account the fact that both of Kashmir’s local parties had brazenly toed the separatist line in boycotting the polls.
That Baramulla — a border district — had a record 75 per cent voter turnout should serve as a rude shock for professional naysayers.
Yes, Kashmir can. (Photo: Reuters)
Now, to quickly gaze through the results: The BJP’s stellar show in the Jammu region is on expected lines. But who would have thought that the BJP would gain a decisive presence in some of the worst strife-torn districts? The party has won 25 seats in Baramulla, 29 in Anantnag and 12 in the terror hotbed of Shopian. It will be governing at least six municipal bodies in the Valley with over 100 wards under its control.
It is important to understand the game-changing implications of these results.
One, while it is easy to dismiss local body elections as non-political, the fact is that this gives the Central government direct access and reach to the grassroots. The delivery of most government schemes can now be monitored directly by the central government (in the absence of a state government), giving these huge momentum.
Two, as I have repeatedly maintained, there is enormous disillusionment in the Valley against both the local parties. The millenial urban voter, unlike the previous generation, sees through the duplicity of both the NC and the PDP, and is not willing to put up with the self-aggrandising politics of the Muftis and Abdullahs. They find both parties grossly incompetent. By toeing the separatist line and staying away from the polls, both these parties have alienated their supporters further.
Sitting democracy out? (Photo: Indiatoday.in)
Three, as we can see, a huge proportion of winners in these polls are independent candidates. As far as I know, many of the independent candidates were PDP and NC grassroots workers who did not want their leaders’ selfishness to rob them of career opportunities. Hence, fighting as "independents" was a mid-way meeting ground with the BJP’s vision for the state. In due course, the independents are expected to back the BJP on development-related agendas, cementing the party’s hold in the state further.
Four, with their parties’ presence at the local level eroded, both the NC and the PDP are going to find their task that much more arduous in the next Assembly elections.
Finally, with a strong local presence added to with the expected support of independents and those sections of the PDP and the NC who have long been disillusioned with their party bosses, a foundation has been laid for a BJP-led state government in Kashmir in the years to come.
PM Modi is a man of vision and resolve.
Way back in 1992 as an RSS pracharak, he was a key member of the then-BJP president Murli Manohar Joshi’s mission to unfurl the tricolour at Lal Chowk. It was in those years that Modi had identified his first set of unlikely lieutenants, starting with a local Muslim policeman, who would work for the BJP in the valley. Surprising as it may sound today, that trusted team stuck with Modi through thick and thin, through the worst phases of militancy, and risking their own lives. New people, new sections got added in the coming years until the game was elevated another level in 2014.
She made sure she had her say. (Photo: Reuters)
And now, 26 years after Joshi unfurled the tricolour at Lal Chowk, the BJP’s strong presence at the local wards across Kashmir is a watershed moment.
In recent debates on the future of Article 35A in Kashmir, I have categorically maintained that in principle, we stand opposed to it, but would much rather prefer the democratic and legislative route than the legal route, to revoke it. When I mention the democratic route, I say this with responsibility that the day is not far when the BJP will be heading the state government in Jammu Kashmir. It may take some more time, maybe a few more years, but a clear foundation for it has been laid under PM Modi and Amit Shah. The results of the urban local body elections vouch for that plan and provide a teaser of what lies ahead
The conclusive solution to the Kashmir problem remains an unhindered, seamless integration with India, which was held back by vested interests. We stand one step closer to achieving that now.