12 days to go: Election atmosphere is completely missing
Srinagar: While by-polls to two parliamentary seats in Kashmir Valley are just 12 days away, the election related campaign from all the major political parties have remained limited to party offices, communities halls and government Dak Bungalows. Leaving aside militancy hit South Kashmir, even in Central Kashmir, political parties including People’s Democratic Party, National Conference and Congress have not succeeded in organizing a single mega election rally yet. Though, elections are scheduled on 9 and 12 of next month, the election atmosphere is completely missing on the ground.
All the political parties have been claiming that they are running election campaigns both in South and Central Kashmir but so far all the election related meeting have been organized in close door offices and government buildings. The National Conference- Congress candidate for South Kashmir Ghulam Ahmed Mir was forced to cancel his scheduled election rally in Pulwama on Monday after the killing of two militants in Padgampora leading to widespread clashes and shutdown in the district. Dr Farooq Abdullah’s campaign managers had to cancel meetings planned in Budgam on Tuesday, after the death of two civilians in police action to disperse stone-pelting protesters near an encounter site.PDP candidate for South Kashmir Tasaduq Mufti and Dr Farooq Abdullah who is in the fray for Srinagar Parliament seat have also failed to make a mark while Nazir Khan of PDP has also not been able to organize any mega election rally so far.
On 19th of March, People’s Democratic Party organized a convention at Chawalgam area of South Kashmir’s Kulgam district that was attacked by scores of youth with stones, resulting in the injuries of two PDP workers. “The prevailing situation across Kashmir Valley is not allowing political parties to reach out to people. Fearing trouble, these parties organize small meetings and conventions in which only loyal party supporters participate. Most of these loyalists are elderly people while the youth participation is minimal. The post Burhan events and the trend to move towards encounter sites, youths pelting stones on Government Forces trying to give safe passage to trapped militants are some of the factors that stop political parties to run election campaign freely,” said a political analyst to CNS.
The election atmosphere is missing on ground, though to pave the way for peaceful elections; government forces have already started a crackdown on youth. Over hundreds youths have been picked up from South Kashmir who are languishing in police stations. Sources said that these youth may be released only after the culmination of the elections on April 12. Government of India has already decided to send 200 companies of paramilitary forces for poll duty in Kashmir. Reports said that State Government had requested Centre to deploy 350 companies to maintain peace and order in the Valley.
A top leader from a political party wishing not to be named admitted that they are hesitant to approach people due to the situation that has emerged after the killing of Hizb popular commander Burhan Wani and the subsequent killing of scores of civilians. “If situation permits we will try to organize election rallies. However, the frequent encounters between militants and the government forces and subsequent clashes change the situation in any area, thus hampering the movement political workers,” he added.