New Delhi, Oct 8: Conducting urban local body (ULB) elections in Jammu and Kashmir is not only an attempt by the government to have democratically elected local bodies in the terrorist-affected state but to give a message not only to separatists, terrorists but also to Pakistan that India will not yield to any of their mischievous designs. The last elections to the urban local bodies took place in 2005.
The central government has not only made proper security preparations for conducting elections in the state but it also did not allow to get intimidated from the political parties like National Conference (NC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with whom the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was partner in the state government till recently. Moreover, the government did not leave any chance to help prevailing normalcy in the state.
It had appointed Dineshwar Sharma an interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir to read minds of people of the state and help them to join the mainstream. However, the government has been dealing with gun-trotting people sternly. The Congress and the BJP are contesting local body elections but the two regional parties - the NC and the PDP - have boycotted elections besides separatists protesting against it.
Separatists have been detained as a precautionary measure to check any trouble for these elections. Separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was on October 7 placed under house arrest while Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front chairman Yasin Malik is into preventive custody since October 2. Hardline Hurriyat Conference chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani continues to be under house detention ahead of the four-phase polls.
Actually regional political parties of the state have boycotted the election on the pretext of the 'lack of clarity' on 35A which is challenged in the Supreme Court giving special status to Jammu and Kashmir. So the boycott by regional parties has made elections a direct contest between the Congress and the BJP, however, attempt are being made from across the border to escalate terrorist violence and cause disturbance in the democratic process in the state but enough security arrangements have been made. The government has deployed around 40,000 additional forces with a three-tier security arrangement around polling stations.
Candidates of the ULB polls have filed their nominations in secrecy and have not been at all campaigning as threat was issued from militants. Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) had warned former panchayat members against contesting the elections. To terrorize people further not to participate in these elections, unidentified gunmen killed two NC workers in Karfali Mohallah of Srinagar on October 5 however NC is not contesting elections.
There are as many as 2,990 candidates in the fray for this ULB polls to be held in several phases. Candidates have been given security and most of them have been taken to safe locations, but the situation is such they cannot campaign. The threat is not only from militants, but from mobs as well.
The Congress has been of the view that atmosphere in the state is not conducive for elections but it decided to contest after the government thrusted elections on the people. For the Congress this is the most low-profile election in the history of the state.