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Festival of democracy in full swing

Political parties busy painting rivals with saffron colour
12:27 AM May 08, 2024 IST | ZAHOOR MALIK
festival of democracy in full swing
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With Article 370 having gone for ever and BJP, which uprooted it, not contesting the  parliamentary polls in Kashmir, the political parties in Valley are celebrating the festival of democracy by profusely painting the opponents with saffron colour. Almost every party is busy trying to make the voters believe that how close its rival parties are to the BJP at present or were close in the past or can be close in future. The whole discourse revolves around it only. The parties  are doing so to cause maximum damage to rivals and get  maximum possible votes in a contest that is getting uncertain and unpredictable with every passing day.

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More election rallies and roadshows are being conducted as part of the campaigning by the political parties. All senior and junior leaders have become an important part of the hectic and extensive campaigning in which some new members of political families are also very much visible and active.

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Since parliamentary polls is the first biggest electoral exercise after the August 5, 2019 decisions of the central government, the abrogation of Article 370 is being discussed on a major scale publicly and politically. Almost all speeches revolve around this topic. Both the traditional parties and the newly born parties are  telling the voters that the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories was totally wrong and should not have happened. Knowing that the "hands of clock cannot be turned back now," the parties are  blaming the rivals for whatever happened on August 5, 2019.

Prior to the start of Lok Sabha election process, National Conference (NC) and PDP, being part of the People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), were blaming Apni Party, People's Conference and Democratic Progressive Azad Party (DPAP) for being A, B and C teams of BJP. Now since NC and PDP are fighting the polls against each other, they too are accusing each other of being BJP teams. They also remind each other of their past association with the saffron party. NC accuses PDP of bringing BJP to Kashmir by forming a coalition government with it after 2014 assembly polls. Similarly, PDP reminds NC of being part of BJP led NDA government at centre with Omar Abdullah as minister of state for external affairs.

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BJP feeling the pulse of the people, decided not to field its candidates in Kashmir constituencies in this election and announced to wait till "the hearts and minds of people are won." In 2019 parliamentary polls, the party had contested all the three seats in the Valley and lost. In fact the party's vote percentage was also low. Political analysts say that the BJP was going to meet the same fate this time as well. According to them, the defeat to BJP candidates and low vote share would have been seen as a rejection of the central government's decisions of August 5, 2019 by the people in Kashmir. National Conference President Dr Farooq Abdullah has said that BJP not taking part in polls is an admission by the party having failed to win the hearts and minds of people in Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370.

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BJP has announced to support like minded parties but has not yet officially  disclosed who these like minded parties are. May be because such a disclosure can cause damage to these parties electorally. However, to remove the confusion in the minds of  their cadres to some extent, BJP leadership is directing them now to vote for any party except for NC, PDP and Congress.

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On the other hand, NC and PDP are appealing the people to vote for them so that they can safeguard the identity of J&K and the rights of masses effectively. NC Vice President, Omar Abdullah, who is himself contesting from Baramulla constituency, is leading his party campaign across Kashmir Valley. From the very beginning he strategised almost everything for the party. NC President Dr Farooq Abdullah also provided a helping hand to him in this direction. From forming a poll alliance with Congress to selection of candidates and now campaigning,  Omar is playing a key role for his party. He is taking on opponents one by one depending upon the need of the time. For obvious reasons, PDP , People's Conference and Apni Party are mostly his political targets right now.

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PDP President, Mehbooba Mufti, contesting from Anantnag-Rajouri constituency, is avoiding a full fledged war of words with NC. Since PDP  is still part of INDIA bloc, she is appealing the workers of NC, Congress, CPI(M) and other parties to support her party candidates to send strong voices in parliament. But Congress and CPI (M) have already announced their support to NC.

NC and PDP are being fiercely criticised by Apni Party, People's Conference and DPAP in the electoral fray. The two traditional parties are being accused of "exploiting the people for decades through their politics of deceit" and "doing nothing practically for the good of the people". Apni Party leaders says that after the abrogation of Article 370, they have successfully persuaded the central government to make laws for securing the rights of J&K people on jobs and land. The party views that only central government, "which has given wounds to people, can provide the healing touch." "Only the centre can restore the statehood, provide unemployed youth with job opportunities and release the jailed youth," said Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari, President of Apni Party.

Ghulam Nabi Azad's DPAP is demanding votes  to safeguard the rights of the people. The party in this connection describes the present laws on land and job rights  as weak and not strong enough. DPAP wants restoration of full fledged statehood to Jammu and Kashmir and not like that of Delhi.

In the ongoing campaigning, almost every party is trying to attract the attention of voters and attempting to convince them that only they and their candidates are the best choice available for them. But then finally it is the voter who has to take a decision on polling day. Today's voters are more well informed than those in the past because of the availability of related facilities. The utterances and actions of politicians are under intense public scrutiny at present unlike the past. Gone are the days when politicians would will say one thing in Kashmir and totally opposite in Delhi and their statements would go unnoticed. Now anything important, said or done, anytime or anywhere, gets viral within minutes and does create effects as well.

Author is senior editor, Greater Kashmir.

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