Srinagar: The announcement of polls by the Election Commission of India (ECI) across Jammu and Kashmir Saturday evoked mixed response from pro-freedom and pro-India groups in the Valley.
While the pro-freedom groups termed elections irrelevant and castigated ECI for ignoring the sufferings of the flood- hit people, the pro-India groups remain divided over the announcement.
“The so-called elections have never been an issue for us. It can never change the disputed status of Kashmir. However, the announcement of these sham elections has once again proved that India is not concerned about the people of Kashmir. Pro-India parties want to build castles over the graves of Kashmiris,” Hurriyat Conference (G) Chairman, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, told Kashmir Reader Saturday.
The senior resistance leader said that lakhs of houses were destroyed by the floods leaving tens of thousands of people homeless. He said that the polls form another form of state oppression.
“People are yet to recover from the shock of the devastative floods. If India, as it falsely claims, was concerned about the welfare of people, they should have thought about the sufferings of Kashmiris. However, the pro-India have a lust for power. They only show fake sympathy for the people,” he added.
Expressing similar views, the parallel faction led by Mirwaiz Dr Umer Farooq said that the conduct of the elections will have no bearing on Kashmir issue.
“Majority of people are in distress but these inhuman mainstream political parties want elections to grab power. They don’t care about people who lost shelter and around 2 lakh people are homeless. Polls are held during normalcy but entire Valley faced devastation due to recent floods,” Chairman JKLF Mohammad Yasin Malik told Kashmir Reader.
Earlier Malik while contesting the timing of the polls had said if the situation was not conducive for holding examinations how was it appropriate for elections.
Hurriyat Conference Jammu and Kashmir (HCJK) led by Shabir Ahmad Shah also lashed out at the ECI for announcing the dates of the ‘so-called’ elections, when the people were facing hardships due to the flood fury.
“Tens of thousands of people are homeless. They have no shelter. No clothes to wear. And to add to their miseries, is the announcement of the sham elections. This is height of political opportunism,” Shah said.
d consultations with Hurriyat Conference (G), with which it has coordination.
The announcement of polls has also divided the mainstream political parties.
The ruling National Conference (NC) said that the ECI went ahead to announce the poll schedule despite the concerns raised by the party leadership.
“We had time and again said that the time for the elections is not ripe. A disaster of a huge magnitude had hit Kashmir. And the elections would hamper rehabilitation work of the government. ECI had to give a thought to our concerns,” NC, General Secretary, Ali Mohammad Sagar said.
Since the commission has announced the poll dates, Sagar said, his party will contest the elections and emerge victorious for the excellent work it has done pre and post floods.
Senior leader of the opposition People Democratic Party (PDP) Nayeem Akhter welcomed the announcement and said that the polls were inevitable. He expressed optimism that the people will reject the party that failed miserably on all fronts.
“The elections are being held on time. The government has completed its term. And it has failed to deliver. Now, the people have option to bring a sensible and accountable government,” he said, adding “People will vote in large number and will punish the government that drowned in floods,”
Senior Congress leader and Education Minister, Tara Chand also welcomed the poll announcement. Elections, he said, was a democratic process that empowers the people.
“ECI is an independent authority. They must have made this announcement after taking everything in consideration. We’re ready to contest the polls,” he said.
However, he said that the elections should not in any way affect the rehabilitation work going on in the state.
“There should be no politics in rehabilitation of the flood hit people,” he added.
Welcoming the announcement of poll schedule, the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) said that the party was ready to fight the elections in the state.
BJP state president and MP Jugal Kishore Sharma said the party leadership and activists at the state, district, mandal and booth levels are ready for these elections.
“Some political parties were opposing holding of the polls on one pretext or the other as they were feeling isolated and insecure and did not have courage to face the people of the state in the elections,” he said.
“As far BJP is concerned, the party cadre is ready to go to the public. Our Mission 44+ will be achieved and BJP will form its government for the first time and create history in Jammu and Kashmir,” he added.