Many hurdles before elections in J&K but that doesn’t stop the BJP
The party recently started making noises about its preparation for polls in the union territory even as other political parties have remained conspicuously quiet.
This week, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) declared that it is ready for assembly election in the newly-formed union territory of Jammu and Kashmir, and started appointing in-charges for various departments in the party. Addressing a press conference in Ludhiana, Punjab, the party’s national vice-president Avinash Rai Khanna said polls were imminent and would be conducted soon as the delimitation process. He said the pandemic had delayed things and if the situation normalises soon, the elections could happen as early as in 2020.
Concurrently, the party in J&K began the process of appointing in-charges for various departments. On Thursday, J&K BJP President Ravinder Raina, in consultation with the General Secretary and others, announced the names of those who will be leading the party departments like election management, programmes and meetings, political feedback, policy research, training, media relations and more.
The last time J&K went to the polls was in 2014 when it was still a state that included Ladakh. A coalition government was formed between the PDP and BJP which collapsed in July 2018. A few months later, the legislative assembly was dissolved and the state was brought under Governor’s rule. On 5 August last year, the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act was passed which split the state into two union territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.
Now J&K is waiting for the delimitation process to get underway, one that will redraw its parliamentary and assembly constituencies. On 6 March, the government formed a commission to start this process in J&K and four other states in northeast India. The commission will be headed by former Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai and will redraw the constituencies in accordances with the provisions of the J&K Reorganisation Act which allows for seven new assembly constituencies to be added. It is expected most of them will be in Jammu.
None of Kashmir’s mainstream parties, including the National Conference which holds three out of five parliamentary seats in J&K, have made any announcements regarding their participation in any upcoming electoral exercise. After the shock announcement in August last year, many Kashmiri leaders were arrested and later charged under the Public Safety Act for attempting to create trouble over the government’s decision. It is unclear whether Kashmiris and their leaders would participate enthusiastically in any future elections, given the shock of scrapping on Articles 370 and 35A. NC’s parliamentarians have petitioned the Supreme Court challenging this move and the case is still pending.