J&K polls: A faceless campaign from the safe houses of Kashmir
Srinagar, Oct 6: The local body polls in Jammu and Kashmir are two days away. Polling begins on October 8 and counting for the same would be held on October 20.
Security in the state is at an all time high, with the government determined to ensure that the polling process is conducted successfully and peacefully.
In the run up to the polls there have been several attempts by the Hizbul Mujahideen to disrupt the process. The commander of the outfit, Riyaz Naikoo has threatened to blind the candidates with acid, if they did not withdraw their nominations.
There is a sense of fear and panic in the Valley as a result of which the entire election process has witnessed a faceless campaign. Despite efforts being made, some persons have leaked information regarding the candidates and even posted their details on the social media.
None of the candidates are on the ground campaigning. The police have taken almost all candidates to safe houses to ensure that they do not become the targets of terrorists. An official from Kashmir while justifying this action said that their primary concern is t ensure that the candidates do not become vulnerable to attacks.
In many parts of the region, which includes, Kulgam, Shopian and Pulwama, the candidates are Kashmiri pandits, who originally hail from Jammu. Some have questioned the logic of being kept away from the public and in safe houses. They seek to know for how long they would kept in these safe houses and add that some day or later they would have to return. What happens then, they ask.
A BJP-Congress fight:
With the NC and PDP pulling out, the direct fight is now between the BJP and Congress. While the campaign so far has been low-key, there is no dearth of candidates. Scores of youth have thrown their hat into the ring and would be contesting as independents.
So far there are around 851 candidates who have filed their nominations for the seats in the 598 wards and 40 municipal bodies in the Valley. Across the state there are 1,145 seats to contested in the 79 municipal bodies and there are 3,005 candidates in the fray.
However in nearly 60 per cent of the wards in the Valley, there would be no contest. In around 172 wards in the Valley no nominations have been filed. In another 190 wards just one nomination has been filed as a result of which there would be no voting. The case is similar for the 40 municipal bodies in the Valley. There will be no voting in 21 bodies.
In Srinagar, 310 candidates have filed their nominations for the 74 wards.
Officials say that this time around there are several new faces in the fray as the field has been left empty with both the NC and PDP pulling out. There are several young faces contesting the polls as independents and one would witness a new breed of politicians in the state. Some also do not rule out the fact that these could be proxy candidates.
The campaign has however been a subdued one. There is a large threat looming over the elections by terror groups. The fact that the NC and PDP have pulled out has taken the sting out of the elections.
The candidates have been advised to maintain a low profile and not speak with the media. The election buzz is missing and the campaign trail has not been able to hit the streets in a big way.