Elections herald hope and opportunity
    16-Apr-2019
 The youth of Jammu & Kashmir are looking for affirmative action from their elected representatives to usher peace and prosperity in the State that has witnessed turmoil and violence for too long now. They are also looking for integration to become a part of the success story of their nation
The country is consumed with election fever! All eyes are on April 11 when the process will get into motion and will remain so till May 19, when the last vote will be cast. May 23, is the big day when the results will be announced. The country is witnessing fierce debates and commentaries with predictions of the result being made by one and all. Social media has added yet another dimension to the process.
 
 
Huge gathering at a public rally of BJP in Jammu & Kashmir 
 
Elections throw up a unique and challenging situation in Jammu & Kashmir. While the discussion and anticipation level is the same as the rest of the country, what is different is the security aspect. Inimical foreign powers leave no stone unturned in attempting to derail the election process in the state, this time the effort is expected to be even more vigorous. Security concerns have been raised due to the call given by certain terrorist and anti-national elements for boycott of the elections.
 
It is to the credit of the people of the State and especially the people of Kashmir that they have not succumbed to the vicious diktat of the terrorists and anti-national elements. The security forces have, with great cost and sacrifice, created an environment where there is no need for the common man to be scared and the people, in turn, have reposed full faith in the forces. As a result election activity is in full momentum in the state, as forcefully if not more than the rest of the country. Local parties like the National Conference (NC), the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and Jammu Kashmir Peoples Conference (JKPC) among others have fielded candidates. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress have also thrown in their glove in the field with all energy.
This is the best opportunity for the youth to ensure that their representatives are such who can give a shape to their aspirations and dreams. The elections can usher in the change that the youth are looking for. The candidates who are most receptive to the changing environment should be chosen. Politics of hate and dissension should be replaced with positivity and forward-looking thoughtThe campaigning, sadly, is following the well-trodden path of negativity. Political parties are more engrossed in deriding each other. Small parties with limited popular reach are at each other’s throats. Each is renouncing the other as self-serving and opportunist. In effect, this implies that all are self-serving and opportunist. Only BJP is placing its campaign on issues of development and security that are most important for the people who wish nothing more than to lead a normal life.
 
A summation of the statements by political leaders of various hues gives a clear indication of the fault lines that exist in the political spectrum of Kashmir. The main issues on which parliamentary elections are fought deal with the creation of infrastructure and taking on big projects which bring up the standard of living of the people, especially so, in terms of health, education and such like sustainable development aspects. Chronic unemployment and under-employment has spawned problems in the state. The deficiency of jobs has led to too many young people remaining idle, leading to the old adage of “an idle mind being a devils’ workshop.” The situation is being exploited by the forces inimical to the development of the state.
 
It is in this direction that the entire narrative of the election campaign should be channelised and the best man should be selected for the job. Sadly, none of these issues is coming out in the campaigning being done by the prospective candidates, except for the BJP candidates. The Kashmir Valley is witnessing a vituperative campaign of a degree much higher than the rest of the state. The people need to compel their elected representatives towards seeking responsibility to dwell on the real issues that would bring about the necessary change in their lives. If they are allowed to carry on with the old rhetoric of raising passions through the articulation of non-issues, there can be not forward movement possible.
 
Youth in the age of 18 to 35 years form a bulk of the voting population in Jammu & Kashmir. These are educated boys and girls who know what is good for them. They are intelligent, hardworking and forward-looking. The youth of the State are looking for affirmative action from their elected representatives to usher peace and prosperity in the region that has witnessed turmoil and violence for too long now. They are also looking for integration to become a part of the success story of their nation. They wish to derive benefit from the nations marches towards becoming one of the largest economies in the world with the most significant market share. The youth have the qualification as well as the will to take the plunge, what they require is the constant push, for which the local Member of Parliament (MP) can play a significant role; therein lies the significance of the elections for the youth of the state.
 
This is the best opportunity for the youth to ensure that their representatives are such who can give a shape to their aspirations and dreams. The elections can usher the change that the youth is looking for. The candidates who are most receptive to the changing environment should be chosen. Politics of hate and dissension should be replaced with positivity and forward-looking thought.
 
It is the inherent strength of the youth which makes their active participation in the election process very important. Coming out to vote is as important as selecting the best candidate. They need to vote in large numbers in order to get their voice heard in the highest seat of democracy – the Parliament. They should not get inhibited by the poor performance of the local political leadership that has been unable to understand their needs and respond to the same. They should, on the other hand, use this opportunity to give a clear message as to what they expect from their leaders.
 
The people also need to remain ever vigilant to ensure that false propaganda is not allowed to gain traction. Media has a significant role to play in this regard. The media can effectively counter the misconceptions, rumours etc. that inimical forces will try to spread as a part of their propaganda campaign by giving out the correct picture.
 
The elections bring with them hope and an opportunity that should not be lost. The silver lining in every constituency is poised to witness multi-cornered contests. The electorate, thus, has a broad array of candidates to choose from! The best results will come by only if promises on the real issues are extracted from the candidates and the one found to be most honest and competent is elected. Here the track record of the party and its capability to usher the country and the region on the path of development and security should remain a crucial deciding factor.
(The writer is a noted scholar, columnist and author)