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It is reasonable to expect better turnout in J&K assembly polls

It is reasonable to expect better turnout in J&K assembly polls
It is reasonable to expect better turnout in J&K assembly polls


With the Supreme Court-mandated deadline for the J&K assembly elections just over three months away, the process of revising the electoral rolls has just begun. These will be the first national elections after the BJP lost its majority in the Lok Sabha to 240 seats from 303 in the 2019 general elections. The party continues to remain in power thanks to its tie-up with the NDA ahead of the polls, but without the aftereffects of 2014 and 2019.

J&K witnessed unprecedented enthusiasm in the recent general elections, the first after the Center withdrew its special powers under Article 370 on August 5, 2019. At 58.58 per cent, the poll percentage was the highest raised for 35 years. The absence of fear of weapons apparently contributed to the full expression of the will of the people in the elections.

Violence only resumed as the verdict was delivered and Pakistani leaders hailed Narendra Modi for his third consecutive term as prime minister. Significantly, Pakistan has lost its grip in the Kashmir Valley since the crackdown on former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his supporters by the military establishment.

The fact that Kashmiris voted decisively against the National Conference and PDP heavyweights Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti in Baramulla and Anantnag-Rajouri indicated their disenchantment with the leadership of the two major regional parties. But they gave NC two seats elsewhere. Omar lost to a jailed independent, engineer Rashid, by over two lakh votes; Mufti was defeated by more than three million votes.

The BJP won the other two seats. Overall, the BJP performed well in only a third of J&K's 90 assembly segments in the Lok Sabha polls. It remains to be seen whether the delimitation exercise that increased the number of Assembly seats from 83 to 9,047 in Kashmir and 43 in Jammu would benefit the BJP.

Turnout could further increase in legislative elections, because local issues generally have more resonance in the mental space than national issues. Preparations for the elections can only begin after the end of the 50-day annual Amarnath Yatra on August 19. This will give the electoral panel about six weeks to organize the elections after the redeployment of security forces. Whatever the outcome, restoration of statehood for J&K after the polls is a no-brainer, but not Article 370 due to constitutional hurdles.




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