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Good Beginning

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The elections to the District Development Councils in the new Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir have thrown up not unexpected results. The People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, a combination of regional parties, has taken the most number of seats (110) against a strong challenge from the BJP (75). The independents, too, have scored well (50). The Congress, as in so many others states, is once again adorning the tail (26). If the 280 seats are translated into assembly constituencies, generally speaking, it would mean that the alliance would need the support of the independents (some supported by the BJP) and smaller parties to form a government. (A closer examination of voting patterns still needs to be done.) It is Omar Abdullah’s opinion that, considering this result, the Centre is unlikely to hold the assembly elections soon.

Be as it may, it is a good start to restoring ‘normalcy’ in the state. It will depend greatly on what stand the Gupkar parties take in the future – whether they encourage through their behaviour further moves towards democratic functioning, or use this ‘mandate’ to adopt a hard line. It must be noted that the alliance is not likely to last for very long, as the PDP has already suffered a setback in the number of seats it has won. Further kowtowing to Farooq Abullah’s strategy could leave it shorn of whatever support it retains among the people. A more conciliatory and cooperative approach by all would hasten normalcy. But to continue demanding restoration of Article 370, etc., would deny the people their right to have a representative government. The alliance needs to accept the new reality, even if it continues to keep the emotive issues charged up for electoral advantage. This will require an intelligent balance.

The BJP has emerged as the largest party, almost entirely dominating the Jammu region. For it, everything is going according to plan as it has made inroads into the Muslim dominated Kashmir region. It has managed to reduce considerably the separatist and Pakistan inspired political influence through the changed paradigm and will continue to do so.

It is also possible that this grassroots democratic exercise has thrown up some new leaders who have a different vision for J&K from the feudal construct of the dynastic parties. They could, possibly, become the much needed alternative in the Valley, but this will take some time. Hopefully, the Kashmiris’ traditional lack of trust in the Centre will be reduced somewhat by the successful conduct of this democratic exercise.