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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 44 New Delhi October 20, 2018

Municipal Polls in Kashmir

Friday 19 October 2018, by Arup Kumar Sen

The four-phase process of election of representatives in 79 municipal bodies in Jammu and Kashmir has started after a gap of thirteen years, with some alarming signals. The two dominant political parties of the State, the National Conference and PDP, announced their decision not to participate in the municipal polls. Reportedly, “of the 598 seats in the Valley, at least 236 will be uncontested. Another 184 have received no nominations.” Barely a day to go before the first phase of polls, it was found that “a resounding silence envelops most of the constituencies in the Valley. Security personnel guard the roads and buildings, and there are no banners in the markets or posters on the walls. Not many voters know who their candidates are or where the nearest polling booth is”.

Remarkably, the first phase of polls “presen-ted a stark contrast in voting patterns... with the Jammu region recording a turnout of nearly 70 per cent while the Valley logged just 8.2 per cent”.

On the eve of the second phase of polls to be held on October 10, 2018, “armed forces have fortified Srinagar in wake of an input of presence of six militants in the city who may launch an attack during the polls...The police and para military forces also conducted raids at a few places in and around the city and barricades have been erected on all major roads and intense frisking is going on...” (The Economic Times, October 10, 2018)

The above poll-related developments, as reported in the national dailies, raise fundamental questions about “representative democracy” in the Kashmir Valley.

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