By stressing that its mandate was to hold elections on schedule, the Election Commission of India had made it quite plain when visiting Srinagar after the floods that assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir would be held around the time they were ordinarily due. It had also made it a point to stress that the process would not interfere with rehabilitation and reconstruction work. The proof of this pudding will be in the eating.
Announcing polls from November 25, barely two months after flood waters have receded and when Kashmir is struggling to come out of one of its worst calamities in over a hundred years, speaks not just of overweening confidence in the central and state administrative machinery’s ability to deliver on several fronts simultaneously, but also of a misplaced emphasis on the mere mechanics of the democratic process or spirit – elections being only one of the many components of the scheme.
The laurels politicians of all hues, indeed politicians anywhere, have brought to themselves, to governance, or to conducting their own respective brands of politics, would be enough to make one yearn for keeping them as far away from public affairs as possible even in normal times. The prospect of having one set of self-seekers replaced by another becomes even more unpalatable in times of hardship and difficulty – and instils meagre hope that a new dispensation would somehow be better equipped to handle the aftermath. Granted that the state had gone through two decades of turmoil, but there is little qualitative change in political and administrative cultures since the state resumed getting its rulers through the ballot.
It could be parenthetically added that leadership, of whatever variety, too has remained mired in its old quirks despite the immense suffering witnessed in Kashmir.
Noteworthy, therefore, are the ambitious plans the BJP has laid out for itself by announcing to contest all the 87 of the state’s assembly seats. The party does not have to worry for funds, because of the powerhouses propelling it and fabricating its image in the mind of the masses. In Kashmir, it has over-estimated the impact of a conjured persona.