Prof A N Sadhu
Three phases of the Assembly elections have been successfully completed in the state. People have watched these elections very keenly because the environment in which the elections are held is different this time compared to that of the previous elections. At the national level, for the first time in the last thirty years, a political party was returned to power with an absolute majority. There was a far cry for change and change did take place. This made a considerable difference in the political scenario of the country both, at the national level as also at the state level. Any unexpected change in the political scenario of the J&K state is viewed with greater interest and seriousness because of its special status under the article 370 0f our constitution.It is now a known fact that the BJP has made a perceptible presence in the valley of Kashmir for the first time since independence How will experts interpret this phenomena will be seen after some time when the election results are known but the messages from the three phases of elections are loud and clear. Let us look at these messages.
* Vote for candidates irrespective of their party affiliations. The wide scale interactions held with the voters, young and old, clearly revealed that the electorate has chosen to vote for a candidate and not for a party. The reasons for this independent assessment can be many. Different parties have ruled in the state but no party has been able to steer the state through its chronic problems of unemployment, poor and inadequate infrastructure and underdevelopment. The electorate has become matured and have decided to gauge the performance of the contestant and make their choice accordingly. They are sending a clear message to the parties that their high sounding promises at the time of elections are no longer going to sway them, instead, if a candidate is a good performer, he will win the confidence of the voters, no matter to which party he belongs to. This is a cause of worry for the traditional parties and a ray of hope for the first timers, who might be given a chance to prove their worth. This is amply clear that the voter makes his own choice on his own judgement.
*No focus on political issues. Going by the assessment of first three phases, the electorate has made it clear that they are not interested in the elections for the sake of political battles. The election , on the other hand, in a democratic polity should ensure faster development of infrastructure, both physical and social and generate adequate means of livelihood for the youth. The young want comprehensive development and not the parroting of old issues, which do not address to their genuine concerns of quality education, skill development and provision of adequate employment opportunities. Sensing this mood of the electorate, political issues have been put on back burner by almost all the political parties. Even the Prime Minister , in his public rally in Srinagar, did not rake up any political issue. He focussed on development alone. Addressing to the youth, he invited them to join hands with him to bring about all round development of the state. J&K has all the potential to engage the state’s youth in gainful employment provided a thoughtful developmental strategy is formulated and effectively implemented.
* Strong urge for exercising the democratic right. In spite of threats, boycott calls and intimidation, people, particularly the youth, came out in large numbers and cast their vote. This should make it clear that the educated and conscientious youth has revealed his preference for ballet over bullet. The youth understands the futility of gun and has chosen the ballet to have the leaders of his choice in the position of power and charge them with the responsibility of addressing to their concerns, honestly and effectively. The participation of youth in a massive scale in the electoral process may upset many a political equation but it certainly will change the course of political events in the state which may hopefully usher in a better politico_ administrative set up in the state.
* Indifference to political ideology. The electorate has sent out a clear message that they are not under the spell of any political ideology. If they are under the spell of any ideology, that is the ideology of development and better quality of life. Many a misconceptions have been put at rest. NO political party can take the electorate for a ride. It is the performance that will shape the course of things and public response will be guided only by the achievements and good governance. Raising politically sensitive issues are no longer going to be the catch words, it will be performance on the ground and strengthening the grass root democratic institutions and decentralisation of power that will evoke public response. There is need for opening the channels of involving the people in the development process as catalysts of change, that will bring peace, stability and prosperity to the people. These elections may well become a land mark in the political journey of the state in both ways; either for making a significant difference or for reinforcing the settled psyche against the established system. The common man may have voted for Sadak, Bijli and Paani and not for acceptance or rejection of any ideology.
Prof A N Sadhu