People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration has complained, in a letter to State Election Commissioner, that candidates fielded by it are being restricted from campaigning freely. The letter also claimed that in a “strange and unique” manner the PAGD candidates are immediately whisked away to “secure locations in the name of security and confined to those secure locations”. The candidates are not allowed to convass and are completely out of touch with those from whom they are supposed to seek votes, it says.
A day after it, State Election Commissioner held a security review meeting in Kashmir Valley and important takeaway, as per a press release issued by the government is that “all advanced arrangements are being put in place to ensure the conduct of transparent polls in free and fair manner across the J&K.” Importantly also, the SEC said that the “goal” of the election conducting body was to ensure safe elections in the J&K.”
The SEC also said 165 additional police force companies have been brought from outside J&K to ensure adequate security arrangements are being made for all participating candidates. While the statement tacitly rejects the PADG’s claims, it also does answer the queries in black and white. As rightly pointed by SEC, the election body’s role is to ensure transparent polls in free and fair manner. It cannot be done without addressing the concerns by PAGD which is a conglomerate of several local parties and are “unitedly fighting” the upcoming District Development Council (DDC) elections. Originally formed to fight for the restoration of Article 370, the reason for them to plunge into DDC elections was to secure too sacred space of “democracy”.
The decision to participate in the elections by parties like National Conference, People’s Democratic Party, J&K People’s Conference and Communist Party of India (Marxist) holds the potential for melting the ice that had formed overall political activity in the Jammu and Kashmir since 5 August last year. It could not have been easy to arrive at this decision even as the powers given to the DDCs are vast.
The SEC needs to address the People’s Alliance concerns. A level playing field must be allowed in the elections to ensure their integrity. While security concerns cannot and should not be brushed aside, the soul of democracy must not be heart either. Both security and democracy should go hand in hand.