Farooq Abdullah has won, yet again. Congratulations! His margin of victory over his lead opponent Nazir Ahmed Khan of the PDP is well over 10,000. That might sound impressive, but given that only 7. 14 per cent voted in the bypolls for Srinagar Parliamentary constituency, one wonders whether these election actually qualify as a democratic exercise to elect peoples’ representative.
Democracy, after all, is all about peoples’ participation. In the bypolls for Srinagar, there was almost none. Worse even, eight young lives were lost in the violence that raged on the day of polls.
The tragedy could have been averted had the Election Commission of India listened to the government of the day that had requested for the postponement of the elections in view of the simmering content on the ground.
The ECI seemed to be in a hurry to rush through with the bypolls for two constituencies in Kashmir. What was the hurry? The ECI knows better. The ECI’s decision to force an election on a bruised people has cost Kashmir dear.
The abysmally low turnout has discredited the mainstream politics in the eyes of the people. Internationally, it will be seen as a big rebuke to mainstream politics. For Pakistan it is a God send opportunity to needle India on Kashmir in international forums.
Elections have been rescheduled for Anantnag to May 25, but there are serious apprehensions whether the exercise will be held on the new date because south Kashmir, the PDP’s base, has emerged as the new ground zero of the separatist agitation after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani last July.
There is a dire need for state and more so the Centre, to reach out to people of Kashmir much like former Prime Minister Atal Behari had done during his tenure. A major initiative to touch base with the people of Kashmir is the need of the hour, or else Kashmir could possibly slip into another round of unrest which would further set the clock back. The dismal turnout should be a wakeup call enough for the powers in Delhi that machismo might help put a lid on the situation but the blowback could be far worse.