Elections to local bodies and Panchayats in Jammu and Kashmir have been deferred for the time being though there is no official confirmation to this account. However, insiders reveal that in a recent meeting with BJP leadership of the Union Territory, Home Minister Amit Shah has hinted at deferring the Panchayat and Local bodies elections due in October-November this year. the decision to defer the elections has come just days after the Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha claimed that 80% people in the Union Territory are happy with the present form of governance and that they don’t want elections.
Postponement of elections to the Panchayat Raj Institutions, however, is in clear contravention to the narrative of the administration that democracy is functional in Jammu and Kashmir without having an elected assembly. The popular narrative of the administration is that it is the assembly alone which is non-functional, democracy and democratic institutions are not only functional but have been empowered exponentially.
The state turned-Union Territory has been without an election for 5 years and without an assembly. The undercurrent suggests that there would be massive voter turn-out as and when elections are held.
The deferment of elections to PRIs holds significance in many ways. There is an opinion that there is an anti-BJP sentiment brewing up in Jammu region. that is why the union government is averse to any elections at least before the Lok Sabha election next year. LG Manoj Sinha’s bombshell of 80% was basically aimed at preparing ground for deferment of elections. Intention behind postponement of PRI elections, according to some observers is to change the tide first through election rallies to be addressed by Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Shah.
That said the deferment of elections in a sensitive place like Jammu and Kashmir could only prove detrimental to the national interest. On the other hand the bureaucracy could be far more abrasive and arrogant which again could lead to further disconnect and disillusionment.