The Election Commission has rejected the National Conference (NC) argument that relief and rehabilitation would be adversely impacted if polls are held on schedule in Jammu and Kashmir. The Commission has thus signaled that elections are most likely to be held around their due date, and, perhaps, that the process would have an inbuilt mechanism to leave rehabilitation work undisturbed.
The intentions of the EC reflect the changing priorities of the Government of India. The focus has now shifted to elections, while relief and rehabilitation of flood victims has gone down in priority. For a variety of reasons, New Delhi has always treated elections in J and K as a national issue. It moves from the pillar to the post during polls to ensure people’s participation in the exercise. In 1996 and 2002, the armed forces herded people to polling booths like cattle.
The September 7 floods have wreaked havoc across Kashmir, with official figures putting the loss at Rs 100,000 crore. All so-called mainstream political parties have been urging New Delhi to declare the floods a national calamity. The GoIhad sought a detailed report from the state government to enable it to take a decision. The report has been submitted, but the Government of India is yet to move. Most probably, New Delhi is waiting for Omar Abdullah’s term as chief minister to expire. The Modi Sarkaar may take a final call on the issue after the state comes under governor’s rule.
The Government of India was quick to declare the Uttarakhand tragedy a national disaster, but has a different yardstick to measure the devastation in Kashmir. Does New Delhi want to convey that Kashmir is not part of the Indian nation? The reluctance of the Government of India to declare the recent floods a national calamity has vindicated the stand of quarters seeking secession. The National Conference has its own problems and priorities, and advocates postponement more out of concerns for its petty political interests. And parties that want elections on time have their own axes to grind. Nobody is bothered about the commoner. This was proved by absence of all pro-India parties in the flood ravaged Valley.
The separatists, in contrast, were on the ground, risking their lives to save people, and working day and night in relief operations. For average Kashmiris, particularly for flood survivors, elections are a meaningless and futile exercise. Right now, they are more interested in issues related to survival. They have also understood that Kashmir is not Uttarakhand.