In Kashmir, an election without a face and a poll without a vote
Srinagar, Oct 8: It has by and large been a faceless campaign in Jammu and Kashmir. The much spoken about local body elections got underway today. Phase 1 of the elections would witness a contest between 1,204 candidates.
The election was a damp squib to begin with after two major parties in the state the PDP and National Conference decided to stay away. The poll results would be closely watched as it is for the first time in 13 years that the elections to the local bodies are being held in the state.
With the NC and PDP pulling out and the threat perception being 'extremely high,' the campaign was a faceless one. The voters do not know who the candidate is as there has been no active campaign due to security reasons. Most of the candidates were advised in advance by the security agencies not to step out. Many of them were even kept in safe houses and told to return to their hometown only after the polls were completed.
In the midst of this some persons launched a campaign to expose the candidates and posted their details on the social media.
One candidate who wished not to be identified told OneIndia that this appeared bizarre to him. How long does one sit in the safe house. We will anyway be identified once we return to our home-towns once the polling is over, he also said. He however added that the situation was extremely tense and the threat perception very high.
To suggest how much of damp squib these elections are, one must look at what happened at Shopian, which is the hottest bed for terrorists in the state. On Sunday, the results for the urban local body election in Shopian were declared without a single vote being polled. There were 11 contestants and none to oppose them.
For the 17 wards of the Shopian Municipal Committee there were 13 nominations. The nomination of one candidate was rejected. Another candidate filed the nomination for two wards, but only one was accepted as a result of which there were 11 candidates.
For the 17 wards in Shopian, 13 Kashmiri Pandits including four women belonging to the BJP filed their nominations. Interestingly none of them live in the Kashmir Valley and had moved from the state in 1989.
Despite such high threats and lack of candidates, the government was keen on going ahead with the elections. These polls are important explained District Election Officer, Owais Ahmad. He said that Panchayat Raj institutions are necessary for the delivery of basic amenities at the grass root levels. There is also a need to speed up development and in this regard the elections would help, he also added.
The government has made elaborate arrangements to ensure that security is tight in the state. There are over 4,000 security personnel on duty. However last week there was a tragedy when two NC workers were shot dead in broad daylight in Srinagar. It was a warning that the terror groups wanted to send out prior to the polling process.