Culmination of polls

The fifth and the final phase of Assembly polls came to an end on 20 December with 20 constituencies of Jammu, Kathua and Rajouri exercising their franchise. If comparative statistics be considered an indicator, the Election Commission has reason to be satisfied with the percentage of overall polling in the State.  On an average the state polled 66 percent votes while in Jammu region it was 76 percent during the last phase.  While as 831 candidates, 803 men and 28 women tried their luck on all the 87 Assembly seats spread across the State.
By and large polling was peaceful though of course there were four incidents of violence and manhandling in which police had to intervene. Four FIRs have been lodged with the police with the inclusion of one against a Minister who tried to assault the Deputy SP. Police authorities did not reveal more beyond asserting that FIRs had been lodged and the law will take its own course.
It is very unfortunate that public leaders including a Minister should behave arrogantly with the security personnel. EC must take serious note of these lapses.
Now that polling in the State is over without any major incident and that the turnout has been the highest in comparison to the Assembly elections of 2008 and 2004, we should appreciate the Election Commission for conducting polls in very unfamiliar conditions. The three districts that went to polls in Jammu on 20th December, namely Jammu, Kathua and Rajouri are all border districts where Pakistani Rangers have been indulging in unprovoked intermittent firing with the clear objective of scaring the voters away and thus making our democracy  a failure. But the elaborate arrangement of security especially on the 120 posts close to the IB or LoC was of class. It is the firm resolve of the State of India not to give any quarter to those who broker disruption. It goes to the credit of the electorate of these borders districts that they defied threat and intimidation and came out in large numbers to cast their vote.
Successful culmination of polling in our State is a befitting reply to Pakistani detractors that try whatever means they may, they are not going to succeed in their nefarious designs.
The second point which was feared would adversely affect the turnout was the highly inclement weather on 20th December. It was a chilly day with temperature falling to 5 degrees Celsius and dense fog overlapping the entire polling stations. Yet nothing could deter voters from coming out and exercising their right to franchise. All that one can infer is that the Indian electorate is maturing and realizes its responsibility. The fact of the matter is that braving all odds, people across the State have exercised their franchise. We cannot afford to be static and our political process must be responsive to current needs of society.
This time Assembly voting in J&K State has broken all previous records. In 2008 Assembly elections, the poll percentage was 61.42 while in 2002 polls it stood at 43.09 per cent only. In 1996 Assembly polls, 54.48% turnout was recorded. In Lok Sabha elections of 2004, Jammu and Kashmir had recorded voting turnout of only 35.20 percent, which went up to 39.67 in 2009 and 50.23 in 2014 Parliamentary polls.
This year’s turnout is about 4.58 per cent more than 2008 Assembly elections, 22.30 per cent than 2002 polls and 12.08 per cent than State elections of 1996.
In the five-phased Assembly elections in the State, the first phase recorded 71.28 per cent followed by 72.10 per cent in second phase, 58 per cent in third phase and 49 per cent in fourth phase
On 23 December, counting will begin early in the morning and hopefully by noon the fate of the candidates will be sealed. Now that we find this year’s turnout to be the highest in comparison to previous two or three Assembly elections, it is but natural that people expect the new Government to be responsive to the aspirations of the people. We have a popular Government at the Centre which has repeatedly said that its priority in J&K is to address developmental needs, giving a boost to trade and commerce and tourism. Whosoever comes to power will need the goodwill of the Central Government. It will be up to the new State Government how it develops cordial relations with centre meaning cooperation and not confrontation.  It should be the priority of the State to see how integration of the State can be brought about without curtailing State’s status.
The misfortune of the State has been that Pakistan has been making relentless efforts to disrupt law and order in Kashmir. We want that the irritants in establishing cordial relations between the two countries should be removed. If the new Government can contribute towards that end, it would be a welcome step. Why should innocent people in the valley or on the border get killed? The new Government shall have to address the issue without anger and rancour.
At the end of the polls there are victories and there are failures. Those who will sit on opposition benches have to realize that they too owe great responsibility to the people of the State and the nation.  Whereas the victorious should not gloat over their success the opposition should not feel belittled. The task before both the groups is of nation building.