The Election Commission of India has revised the date of publication of the revised electoral rolls for Jammu and Kashmir from October 31 to November 25, a gap of almost one month, but in practical terms, it means that there can be no Assembly polls this year because of the extreme wintry conditions that will visit the Union Territory at that time.
The deferment of the revised electoral rolls by 25 days in J&K at this point in time means that polls will stand postponed to next year. The subzero temperatures, combined with heavy snowfall that leaves many of the mountainous areas in both the regions of Kashmir and Jammu cut from the plains , which causes disruption in logistics, movement of the election staff and above all the security forces. This delay would also mean that the people here who had been eagerly waiting for the election schedule, in the absence of an elected government for over four years now will have to wait for at least eight months more. That practically means that J&K will have a gap of almost five years between the last and the newly elected government.
It appears that a step by step approach has been adopted to defer Assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir the place which has been without an elected government for the past over four years, and the nearest possibility of the polls being held in the Union Territory appears to be March-April next year when it will be having comfortable weather conditions for the voters to come out of their homes to elect their representatives to the first-ever Assembly in the post-Article 370 abrogation.
Technically, the ECI has broaden the opportunity for the youth attaining the age of 18 years as on October 1, 2022, from the earlier benchmark of January 1 this year. It has made all those born between January 2 to October 1 in 2004 eligible for the voting rights in the elections as and when these are held. It will automatically increase the democratic demography by thousands of new voters ,enabling them to contribute in making choice of their representatives in the legislature.
This also has a flip side. If the elections are not possible by this -year-end, the ECI will come under sharp criticism from all those who qualify to be in the voters list by January 1, 2023. This is a technical point, the larger issue at stake at the moment is whether the publication of electoral rules necessary follow holding of the Assembly polls. There is no word about that. And that is increasing desperation among the people and the political parties for the polls.
This latest order of the ECI has also put political parties pitching for early Assembly elections in a quandary. They cannot oppose the move to enlist more voters, as all of them are going to be youth, and these parties have been in the frontline asking for the political and economic empowerment of the youth in all of their rallies and workers’ conventions. In Jammu and Kashmir, youth have a different profile given the conflict situation continuing here for the past over three years. A contest of sorts is underway between the forces attempting to infuse radicalize them and the government seeking to wean them away from such negative elements by pulling them into the national mainstream. The political empowerment that will come to the new generation is one of the ways, as much of the thought must have gone into it .
The moot point, however, remains when will elections be held in J&K?This notification has cast yet another spell of uncertainty on already much delayed polls.