Successful local body polls in Jammu and Kashmir will act as a bulwark against Pakistan machinations
The local body elections in Jammu and Kashmir are being seen as the transformation that will not only defeat Pakistan’s nefarious design in the Valley, but also offer a new hope to the people, with maturity and responsibility
New Delhi: One foggy evening in January this year, SP Vaid, then DGP of Jammu and Kashmir Police played an audio clip on his mobile phone for Home Minister Rajnath Singh. It was an intercepted call from Pakistan in which the handler was directing to carry out targeted killings during the local body polls that the Centre was planning to hold towards the end of that month.
Vaid told the home minister that Pakistan would try every trick in its terror book to thwart these elections in the state. As expected the polls were deferred by the PDP-BJP ruling coalition citing gloomy security situation. But, that triggered a debate within the central government on overall administrative issues related to the state while strongly backing an early urban local body and panchayat polls.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also informed that Pakistan was planning to disrupt the democratic process, as panchayat polls, last held in 2011, would accomplish extraordinary dividends for grass root electoral politics in the state. Months later, the BJP pulled out of the alliance with the Mehbooba Mufti government claiming her party did not live up to its promises though refrained from giving out the main reasons responsible for the break-up.
Subsequent events surrounding the legal challenge to Article 35A and the boycott of the panchayat and urban local body polls by National Conference and PDP appeared as another set of roadblock. Though the undeterred Centre is moving ahead with polls with Governor Satya Pal Malik in the driving seat, the polls under shadow of fear and killings of political workers would be the real test for NDA’s political nerves.
A senior officer is of the opinion that the successful conduct of the panchayat elections in the state will not only revive popular interest in democracy, but will also act as a bulwark against Pakistan’s machinations. He said that since the 14th Finance Commission had doubled the grants to the local bodies to help in achieving equal opportunity and overall development, the move would fill the empty phrase of development.
There is no doubt that local body representatives are needed in good governance because they can give the best to the people, however, in the context of Jammu and Kashmir, the situation is little complex. The real development has eluded the state. In fact, Modi had recently enquired from officers as to why benefits of the comprehensive package announced by him in 2015 were not visible on the ground. Although, an officer indicated that civil administration needed to be proactive, some were of the view that governance deficit and general administration lethargy during the PDP-BJP rule in the state were primarily responsible for it, and it was imperative to deliver results on the development front so that the people of the state may start reaping the benefits.
In 2015, Modi had announced a Rs 80,000 crore development package for the state including highway projects, power, health, human resources, urban development, agriculture and developing infrastructure in towns.
It is also important to note that despite the development package and the government's ambitious plan for the state, just one district of Kupwara figures in the aspirational districts list of Panchayati raj.
Sadly, that too doesn’t have any action plan report related to gram panchayats.
Now, security agencies are of the view that the overall situation in the state is generally in control with considerable success in neutralising top militant commanders to cultivate the gains. This also provides opportunity for the administration to fill the governance vacuum.
Singh knows too well that militancy has to be destroyed for development to take place and the very process of bringing grass roots democracy is to ensure foundational principle of basic rights of the people. When he recently observed that 90 percent people in the state are willing to participate in the local body elections, it was clearly meant to placate the people with the message that the government is determined and ready to engage all stakeholders.
Miracle doesn’t happen in emptiness. The NDA government is quietly working on several fronts. Besides increasing remuneration of special police officers last month, the government is also strengthening the counter-infiltration grid in the state. Since a sustained operation against separatist elements to disrupt funding from Pakistan is showing the result, the government is working on another proposal to check foreign channels telecasting anti-national content in the Valley.
A proposal is also being mulled to shift the Central Jail from downtown Srinagar to a location outside the city limits after an internal report suggested that it had become a hub of planning for all terrorist activities.
Beyond party politics, for a vibrant democracy, there is no easier path than integrating people with the mainstream, and the local body elections are being seen as the transformation that will not only defeat Pakistan’s nefarious design, but also offer a new hope to the people, with maturity and responsibility.
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