Unconventional campaign during DDC Elections in J&K

Mahesh Chander Sudan

We, the people of India, are witnessing two on going events involving stalemate between farmers and Government of India with regard to recently enacted farming laws and DDC elections of JKUT, in both the cases democracy visibly demonstrates its spirit in form of right to protest against any state law by the affected citizenry and to elect representatives at village, block and district level to participate in interactive governance of the state respectively. In the former case, it shows maturity of democracy that allows people to show their annoyance in a democratic peaceful manner to protect interest of affected community where as in later case it is a sanctioned right to represent through ballot for betterment of the state at large. In any democracy it is the larger will of the people that should prevail surpassing all ideological beliefs and it is the duty of state to identify, analyze, accept and undertake to honour the mandate of the commoners as guided by the highest law of land for furthering welfare of the state. The issue of stalemate expectedly would reach an amicable settlement shortly out of prudent and empathic handling at appropriate level for mitigating concerns of the farming community without allowing any undesirable element to drive mileage out of it.
Holding of elections in Jammu and Kashmir post militancy of three decades especially for restoring democracy at village, block and district level posed challenges not only for government of India but for all participating political parties in seeking maximum public participation so that true representation of the people is achieved through democratically set up free and fair electioneering.
It therefore called for all political outfits irrespective of their status to involve in restoring mass contact and participate in first ever election held post formation of Union Territory to form District Development Councils for achieving judicious exploitation of the limited resources meant for development of the districts. As the aim of the exercise is to provide direct participation of the people in addressing local issues, the political parties involved local leadership to be more vocal in highlighting concerns of the people more accurately and aptly and it guided participating leaders whether sponsored by political outfits or independents to tactically mould their election campaign with area specific thrust. Despite the fact that few valley centric political entities initially showed their reluctance in joining the fete but caught the nerve of the people at right time and actively participated with maximum sponsorship of local candidates with ground level election campaigning by senior party leadership except for Congress and BJP. The election campaign of the congress sponsored candidates remained largely limited to local leaders of party except for one or two central leaders who visited union territory occasionally to canvass for their party candidates. As regards the BJP, the party has adopted unconventional method of campaigning through central leadership ignoring local party cadre conveying that the central senior leadership is not confident and comfortable with party hierarchical set up of the Union Territory. The electoral campaign has fully been assigned to a couple of sitting ministers of the Union Government and senior party officials who are found camping in both the provinces of the UT ignoring responsibility of their parent Ministries and neglecting local leadership.
This unconventional method of campaigning has intently been adopted to extract healthy results not only in the ongoing DDC elections but to lay a sound foundation for the future electoral exercises. It may prove beneficial for the party but it does confirm the questionable performance of the leaders who were bestowed with large public mandate by voters of the Jammu region in 2014 and helped party securing 25 Legislative constituencies. It is a surprise to note that most of these local leaders are not assigned with any responsibility in the DDC elections as the party felt apprehensive to face voters of Jammu region in specific through these incompetent leaders and earn public annoyance.
At the same time it is in the interest of largest national entity to accept the ground reality that the present group of local leaders of BJP do not exhibit cohort feeling and it lacks serious leadership deficiency at all levels. Adhoc arrangement of managing DDC election by deputing senior cadre from central pool may prove arithmetically correct; it otherwise is not expected by the local populace of the Union Territory to sideline and cover up the failure of those circumstantial leaders. We expect a healthy turn around for reactivating politics in the newly formed UT of J&K so that common people are not devoid of the democratic electoral process any more. The visible delay in holding election in the Union Territory or in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, apparently on one or the other pretext, conveys under confidence of the ruling party of India and its designed political holocaust to create fertile ground for generating healthy political climate. Increased involvement of the central leadership in DDC election is a step forward in this direction.
It is quite normal for any political entity to try such tactical moves to cast a spell of magic for successfully realigning local politics cosmetically for short time. We are sure that people of Union Territory of JK are aware of their basic issues and their constitutional mandate may not be easily sabotaged by glamorous mode of campaign carried out in DDC Elections. Unlike other federations of the Union of India, Jammu and Kashmir inherited a challenging status by being a bone of contention between two neighbors, a difficult geographical feature with least modern day means of life, multiple racial composition, theological diversity, political instability, lack of good education infrastructure, faulty health care system and above all scarcity of employment opportunities due to minimal industrialization despite abundant gifted natural resources and it all calls for a holistic plan for development specific to local needs. It therefore infers that no amount of readymade design of development without involving local people will change the ground situation, let us practice being Vocal for Local in real terms in all our sincere endeavors to usher new Era of development for the youngest Union territory of India. Jai Hind, Jai Bharat.
[The author is Wg Cdr (Retd)]