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Victory of Democracy

Significant poll percentage in Srinagar parliamentary constituency reflects increasing faith of people in free and fair polls
12:00 AM May 15, 2024 IST | ZAHOOR MALIK
victory of democracy

It is the victory of democracy and victory of increasing faith of people in free and fair polls. On May 13, 2024, the Srinagar parliamentary constituency recorded the highest poll percentage (38) first time after the 1996 Lok Sabha elections.


In 1996 the percentage was 40.94. Interestingly, National Conference (NC) had not contested the 1996 parliamentary polls since the then central government had ignored its demand for  restoration of greater autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) or an assurance on it.


Now, BJP, which ended the special status of J&K by abrogating Article 370 and bifurcated the erstwhile state into two union territories on August 5, 2019, is not contesting the 2024 Lok Sabha in Kashmir and intends to win the hearts of the people first. However, the party is supporting the like minded parties in the Valley.


Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha applauded the people of Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency for coming out in large numbers to vote on May 13. Senior leaders of local political parties also congratulated the masses and expressed satisfaction over the high poll percentage. The political parties and leaders are interpreting the development in their own way.


However, the long queues of enthusiastic voters outside polling stations  and the subsequent comparatively higher poll percentage  indicate that like other parts of the country the democracy continues to be very much deep rooted in Kashmir as well.


Right now it does not matter who  wins or who  is  defeated. But what matters is that people by coming out in big numbers have shown their faith again in democracy. In fact this faith has got more strengthened with time. The credit for so much enthusiasm first goes to the people and then to  all political parties, election authorities and the government machinery.


The political parties and their leaders through extensive and hectic campaigning motivated the people to come out in large numbers and vote. Those who came out included significant number of  first time voters. The authorities through their measures facilitated free,  fair,  smooth and peaceful electoral exercise.


A remarkable beginning has been made from the Srinagar parliamentary constituency and hopefully  the increasing enthusiasm would be carried forward to Baramulla constituency on the polling day there on May 20 and in Anantnag-Rajouri constituency on May 25 as well.

During campaigning the political parties have a right to take each other head on, criticise severely each other’s policies, programmes and performances. But no attempt should be made at any level to weaken or undermine the spirit of democracy.  Free and fair polls are the soul of Indian democracy. This very spirit and soul  give a right to people to elect their representatives and the government.

If this  electoral political space for any reason is damaged or is missing,  the people will not be having a voice or choice through votes and political parties no means to get the mandate of the people. Victories and defeats are part of the elections. No defeat is permanent and no victory is permanent.

Had those been permanent then there would not have been changes in the political governments through polls from time to time. Whatever the political leaders or parties keep on saying or claiming during elections, it is finally the verdict of the people which matters. And with all humility the political parties and leaders  mostly accept the verdict of a free and fair poll.

This was for the first time after 2019 that a major electoral exercise was held in the prestigious Srinagar parliamentary constituency. Srinagar has always been the epicenter of J&K politics. In 2019 the parliamentary polls were held here like other parts of the country. At that time the poll percentage in Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency was 14.43.

The polling for Lok Sabha elections in Srinagar constituency on May 13 was held first time after the abrogation of Article 370. The abrogation and subsequent effects remained a hot topic of campaigning for the political parties, who tried to score over each other by describing how much shocked and disturbed they were after the abrogation. They promised the people safeguarding of  their rights in future.

All senior leaders including Dr Farooq Abdullah, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti, Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari, Sajad Gani Lone, Ravinder Raina and Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami appealed the people to vote in large numbers. NC and PDP leaders told the masses that voting is imperative to tell the central government that its decisions about J&K on August 5, 2019 are not acceptable to them. They also stated that the vote is for sending strong voices to parliament. Apni Party, Democratic Progressive Azad Party ( DPAP) and People’ Conference kept on saying that voting is an opportunity to put an end to the decades long politics of exploitation, deceit and deception of the traditional parties, promoting dynasty politics. The three parties also promised to the masses safeguarding of their rights.

BJP, which arrived on J&K political scene with a big bang in 2014 by almost sweeping the assembly polls in Jammu region that year, is not taking part in parliamentary polls in Kashmir this time. J&K BJP General Secretary ( Organisation) Ashok Koul while justifying his party decision said, “ For taking a big leap, sometimes you have to take a few steps backwards also. That is exactly what we did this time.” He said that  BJP is now ready for the big leap by taking part in coming assembly polls in Kashmir in a big way.

BJP had come under severe criticism by rival parties for not fielding candidates in Kashmir for Lok Sabha polls despite its claims of having built a “new Kashmir” after the abrogation of Article 370. However, the party is trying to silence its critics  by stating that it is very much ready to contest assembly elections in Kashmir.

The high poll percentage in Srinagar parliamentary constituency also gives an idea how much higher the voter turn out can be  in the coming assembly polls. Usually the poll percentage in assembly polls is always higher than parliamentary polls everywhere in the country for obvious reasons. Right now the political parties  are busy in campaigning in Baramulla and Anantnag-Rajouri parliamentary constituencies. After the polling there and election results on June 4, the focus will shift towards assembly election preparations.

The parties during assembly polls will have to come forward with  their programmes for solving the problems of the people including growing unemployment among the youth, inflation, power crisis and other problems in the various fields of life. The parties cannot afford to  remain stuck for too long in debate on major political developments, which  cannot be reversed by them. They have to come forward with practical solutions for practical problems of the masses now.

Author is senior editor, Greater Kashmir