Democratic Politics in J&K – Year 2021 – Jammu Kashmir Latest News | tourism
How can we see the year 2021 from the perspective of democratic politics? What were the highlights of the year? Would the year go down in history with certain momentous situations? The year 2019, for example, is etched into the memory and history of J&K forever – this year the special constitutional status of J&K was lifted and the state reorganized. The year 2021 was certainly not comparable to the year 2019 in this regard, but there were some important situations that are referred to!
If one has to choose the most significant moment of 2021, it is better expressed by an image – the image of Prime Minister Modi standing next to the Interior Minister of India amid all of J&K’s political leaders. Not only was this image reproduced in the national media, but it was also set to become the highlight of international news. Its importance lay in the various messages it conveyed. One of the first messages the picture conveyed was that it represented a turning point from both the perspective of the Indian government and the perspective of key Kashmiri political leaders.
From the perspective of the Indian government, it was an ice breaking event. After the changes in August 2019 and the bitterness and resentment that mainstream leaders, especially those based in Kashmiri, pointed not only at these changes but also at their prolonged incarceration – this was the first high-level political initiative by the Indian Prime Minister, to engage these leaders in dialogue. “It was an important signal that the government is now ready to start the political process in J&K. Although the district development council elections earlier held were intended to send that signal, this time the message was that the Indian government was now ready to hold the assembly elections and facilitate government formation – thereby ending the administrative regulation that had been in place since July 2018 .
Viewed from a different perspective, this image was also an acknowledgment of the continued relevance of mainstream political leaders, particularly those of Kashmir. The All Party Meeting gave them a place of honor. The same leaders and their political parties were previously declared irrelevant and superfluous as the central government declared the end of the “dynastic”, “corrupt” and “inefficient” political class following the changes in August 2019. The central leaders then expected the rise of a new political elite and leadership in Kashmir. With this expectation, the election for the District Development Councils (DDCs) was organized. However, this expectation was dashed after the DDC elections. The APM was therefore a recognition of the fact that there has been no change in the political class and, like it or not, traditional mainstream parties like NC and PDP will be major players in J & K’s democratic politics. The image of the prime minister, who stood in cordiality with the leaders of these parties, was therefore not only a signal of the imminent initiation of the political processes, but also of the continuing importance of the traditional parties based in Kashmir.
From the perspective of mainstream Kashmiri parties and leaders, this image reflected an important “move on” statement. So far, these parties and leaders in politics have been incited by resentment about the changes in August 2019, and although these parties had participated in the DDC elections, their main concern was the restoration of Article 370. Their rejection of the political processes under way by the Center was reflected in their refusal to recognize the delimitation commission. It was for this reason that the Associate Members of the NC had refused to meet the Commission when they called their first meeting. However, by promising to meet the Prime Minister, they had given the first hint to go beyond this policy and show flexibility. In the APM, these parties have not raised the question of Article 370 and have shown their willingness to participate in the political processes without the condition of restoring the special conditional status. Following this meeting, representatives of most political parties not only met with the delimitation commission, but also began preparations for the subsequent elections. Hectic election activity that took place in the UT in the later months with competitive political rallies was one of the main outcomes of the APM.
If anything else happened in 2021 that can be considered “historic” it is the draft demarcation report that was published later in the year. The historical thing about it was that it had specific implications for representative politics. For the first time in the history of J & K’s electoral policy, a number of constituencies have been reserved for the Scheduled Tribes. As suggested in the draft report, 9 seats were recommended for the STs – consisting mainly of the Gujjars, Bakerwals and the Gaddis. This municipality was granted ST status in 1991, but not the political reservation. However, although the parish was seen politically as a major constituency and every political party tried to win it for votes, the parish felt discriminated against without the political reservation – especially when compared to providing political reservations for STs elsewhere in the country.
The political reservation had already been made in the Panchayati Raj institutions and its advantage became apparent during the recently elected District Development Council when a large number of ST candidates (38) including women were able to officially represent the community. However, having 9 ST seats in the Constituent Assembly is seen as a significant development by the Gujjar Bakerwal community.
The Boundaries Commission’s draft report was “relevant” to the Jammu region as well, as it increased its seat on the legislative assembly and narrowed the legislative gap between the two regions. Of the seven other seats granted to the UT, six were assigned to the Jammu region and only one to the Kashmir region. As a result of the report, the Jammu region will have 43 seats in the 90-member assembly compared to 47 seats in the Kashmir region. The difference between the two regions, which was previously 9 seats, has been reduced to just 4 seats. Although the political class in the Jammu region has expressed displeasure that there is no political parity between the two regions and that Kashmir still has a larger number of seats in the assembly compared to those in the Jammu region, this recommendation will have far-reaching implications on the politics of the UT on the one hand and the interregional balance of power on the other. After the August 2019 changes, this is a significant change with an all-encompassing impact.
Another important development of the year 2021 can be noted – the phenomenon of “freedom of movement of political leaders from one party to another”. This may not be considered “historic,” but it was certainly a phenomenon that peaked in 2021. Although the phenomenon began much earlier (and the formation of the Apni party was a clear reflection of this phenomenon), the process of abandoning the political parties, with which the political leaders had long been associated, was accelerated in 2021. Shortly after the election of the DDC elections, there were many postponements that lasted all year round. A total of more than 40 high-ranking members of parties, including even former ministers and lawmakers – switched parties in the past three years – but many of them switched in 2021. The effects of such a party shift were mainly from the PDP and the NC. perceived. The PDP is so devastated that it is now almost devoid of leading executives. Many of the party’s high-level leaders, including the party’s founding members, have left. The beneficiaries of this movement were three parties – the Apni Party, the People’s Conference and the BJP. In Kashmir, it was the Apni party that initially attracted most of these leaders, and in recent months it has been the People’s Conference that has become the favorites. BJP, of course, remains the most popular choice in the Jammu area.
Of all the bipartisan movements, the most radical one is the migration of the two staunch leaders from NC to BJP. This is ‘radical’, not only because the NC provincial president has decided to move, but also because the NC and BJP are ideologically opposing poles. Viewed from both perspectives, it was an interesting phenomenon that reflected the realities of the time.