J&K Panchayat polls: People's victory over militant threat
23 January 2001
Jammu: A large voters turnout in so far held Panchayat polls defying militants' threat signifies peoples strong urge to focus on peace, progress and development and shunning aside all other agendas, very strongly supporting Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister's stand of conducting these elections. The Panchayat polls have been held in frontier and mountainous districts of Poonch, Rajouri and Kupwara besides in parts of Kathua district. Though Kupwara in Kashmir valley is in the grip of secessionist militancy since 1990, Poonch and Rajouri in Jammu region have also been witnessing rise in militants' activities since last three years now. The twin border districts in Jammu region are these days one of the focal areas for militancy. Yet these areas registered about 80 per cent voters turnout for Panchayat polls that are being conducted in the State after a gap of about 24 years. The militants had threatened people to stay away from these elections. But large number of voters gathered outside polling booths and defied their threats 'for the sake of progress and development of their areas'. All these voters were echoing that 'enough is enough and now we want development, progress and welfare'. They came in large number to endorse their faith in democratic institution defying the militants' diktat. Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah could not be a happier person to see a massive response to his firm decision to restore Panchayat rule in the State. Besides fulfilling his party's promise to the people of the State he has muted his opponents. The Panchayat polls are being held on non-party basis in the State. The ruling National Conference says that this decision was to get the best persons elected in the Panchayat of whatever party they are. But there is also no denying the fact that the ruling party was feeling shy to go to the masses. This was mainly because the ministers and the party leaders had not capitalised on the opportunity given to them when it got thumping majority in 1996 Assembly elections. People of the State had reposed high confidence in the party and also pinning high expectations of healing the wounds of long years of militancy. But the observers in the State note that the lack of ministers' interaction with the people, insensitivity to their urges coupled with unresponsive administration are main causes of mass alienation from the present government. They feel that had these two factors worked for uplift of causes underlined by Farooq Abdullah things would have definitely been much more favourable for the Government. The present Panachayat polls if contested on party lines at this period of time would have brought out Farooq much stronger backed by the masses. But these things aside the large voter turnout is a vicarious endorsement of people's faith in the policies of Farooq Abdullah because it was his decision to hold Panchayat polls in the State 'at all costs'. He had said that by holding Panchayat polls after a gap of about 24 years 'we are transferring power to the people at grass-root level to empower them manage their affairs and take decisions about their development and welfare'. With holding of Panchayat polls Farooq Abdullah has fulfilled yet another promise made to the people of the State. The observers in the State say, 'Criticism besides, one must not forget that Farooq Abdullah is performing amidst blanket of hostilities.' They observe that the Prime Minister had pledged nation's backing to Dr Abdullah when he took over the reins of the State in 1996 'in most difficult situation'. But they regret that the Government of India has not wholly stood by even during the 'convalescence period of Jammu and Kashmir State, while it was recovering from the blows of long years of militancy'. But these observers feel that 'nonetheless, the big voters turnout for Panchayat polls is definitely a rejection of Hurriyat and secessionist agenda, who had called for poll boycott'. The All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) had asked people to stay away from the polls.