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Re-polls: A farcical exercise
Serious issues need to be addressed first through engagement with angry youth in order to make the election exercise credible
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An old dictum that "if elections are not free, they cannot be fair either" holds good so far as re-polling in 38 polling stations was held on April 13, 2017 in Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency by-elections. The entire exercise appears to be a farcical for the reason that majority of the electorate did not come to vote for electing their candidate, who would represent them in the Indian Parliament. The Thursday's re-polling in which only 709 voters exercised their right to adult franchise is an indicator of the fact that the people do not trust this exercise and do not want to be part of it. Apart from this, this also to be borne in mind that Srinagar LS seat by-polls witnessed the lowest poll percentage of around 7 during the past 27 years. These figures themselves speak of the mood of the people in Valley. The violence that followed cannot be ignored by the powers that be. It should act an eye-opener for both the state and the central governments that bigger issues of anger and desperation of the people should be addressed first. In fact, the alienation has impacted the minds and hearts of the people to such an extent that they do not see the re-polls or by-elections as an opportunity for electing their representatives for solving their day-to-day problem like water, electricity, education and law and order issues. The entire has become so discredited that the people do not believe even in the mainstream politics, that is ruling the roost in the country not to speak of Kashmir alone. The Kashmir youth are so disenchanted that they do not want to be part of this exercise and resorted to stone-pelting and violence on polling stations and staff besides the security personnel. Whether the angry youth set polling stations ablaze and destroyed and damaged the polling material and Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) adhering to the calls for poll boycott or not is not the point for debate. Sight cannot be lost of the fact that at least seven opposition candidates, who are contesting elections for Srinagar LS seat have also opposed the re-polling in Budgam on the plea that entire by-elections should be held afresh by postponing the polls as it has been done in Ananatnag. Everybody, who is somebody in the government in J&K or New Delhi has been calling for postponing of elections due to law and order situation. It is an honest confession on the part of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) that the security forces and para-military men were not prepared for the violence that marred the elections on April 9, 2017 in which eight persons lost their lives and left thousand others injured in the clashes.

That the Election Commission of India (ECI) has now heeded to the advice of the state government to postpone the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat by-polls, scheduled to be held on April 12, 2017, what was the problem to take a preview of the entire situation before the election dates were fixed last month. Knowing fully well that the MHA had already issued an advisory against holding of elections which have been due for more than six months, ECI did not need any consul from the MHA. In fact, the ECI and its large network of the officials at its disposal and conducting surveys for assessing the situation in different parts of the country should have taken an advance note of everything that was brewing in Kashmir valley post-Burhan Wani's killing in July last year. The aftermath had been adverse with the unrest in the following months claiming more than 100 precious lives and resulting in injuries to thousands in pellet gun firing incidents. Somehow, the trigger happy police and para-military forces were at the receiving due to mass uprising against the rulers, who have only been contributing in more and more regimentation and militarisation in the Himalayan state during the past almost 28 years. Instead of just going ahead with such an exercise the governments in J&K and centre need to engage the angry people and resume dialogue process with all the stakeholders to make participation of people honourable and credible. Otherwise, whatever is happening in the valley and no matter whosoever is elected in such low percentage polling, it is only making a mockery of Indian democratic system and election institutions.

News Updated at : Friday, April 14, 2017
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