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Debased political debate
Run-up to the election for 4 LC seats is stinking with dirty tricks
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For the last few months, the quality of political discourse in Jammu and Kashmir, particularly in the Valley, has been degenerating with combatants in the arena exposing their bankruptcy of ideas, coupled with intolerance for democratic dissent. Ongoing contest for a few legislative council seats in the panchayat category has sparked a no-holds-barred dogfight. With each passing day confusion over who actually stands for what is getting confounded because issues of public interest and public importance do not figure anywhere in this free-for-all. It looks as though the people in general and the specific electorate (elected panchs and sarpanchs) are being deliberately led up the garden path. Even the recent issues that were in focus after the panchayat elections have been relegated to the background.

The worst part of this dirty game is that it only aggravates the disillusionment that pervades the overall political atmosphere in Kashmir. Ironically, the guilty in this case happened to be the so-called ‘mainstream’ lot who never tire of berating separatist leaders for preaching cynicism and running away from serious issues touching the lives and interests of the general public. The separatist are held guilty of negative politics, articulating ‘irrelevant’ issues and obfuscating reality. And now their ‘mainstream’ counterparts are engaged in the very same dirty game, instead of articulating real-life issues like bijli, sadak and pani. The ruling establishment seems to be desperately trying to hide more than revealing anything to justify its existence.

The performance record of the National Conference-Congress coalition government is admittedly too poor to show, more so in the competitive atmosphere of elections. One has only to pick up the list of promises made three years ago and compare it with the reality on the ground to draw the inevitable conclusion that this government has every reason to dread public scrutiny. The number of innocent human lives lost during this period is staggering. Not a single case has been brought to justice till now. Gross mismanagement in power distribution and LPG supply typifies the chronic administrative incompetence afflicting each and every organ of this set-up. The height of irony is that even such a grave issue as that of rampant corruption in public life is sought to be virtually justified in the name of ‘coalition compulsion’. The shameless manner in which a House Committee of the state legislative council dealing with a case of ministerial corruption was done away with reveals the depth of the rot. The government’s track record is littered with broken promises and failure to honour its commitments on such crucial issues as providing jobs to unemployed youth, attracting private/public industrial investment or dismantling the repressive regime of draconian laws.

Forget about the hollow bravado over the issue of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), even the state’s own Public Safety Act (PSA) continues to be wantonly abused to go after teenagers who are forced by the circumstances to take to the streets. Intolerance has by now become the defining feature of this regime. The same intolerance marks the current political discourse brought into spotlight by the ongoing election for four LC seats. While such tactics might serve narrow interests of combatants in the field its long-term impact is bound to be quite damaging for the larger interests of the state as well as the country.

It needs no reiteration that the root cause of India’s problems in Kashmir is the failure to let a healthy democratic environment grow here as in rest of the country. Time has proved that it is politically fatal to mistake popular participation in elections as end of the story. Emotional alienation remains as strong as ever because the real issues feeding it have never been dealt with, much less resolved. Propelling undemocratic trends for whatever reason, including that of the ensuing election, is a recipe for courting disaster which is never too far in this part of the country.
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News Updated at : Monday, November 26, 2012
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