September 8, 2023

Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether it is time for Assembly Elections in Jammu and Kashmir. We also look at the salary hike for MLAs in West Bengal, among other news.


Is it time for Assembly Elections in Jammu and Kashmir?

(Image credits: Ministry of Home Affairs (GODL-India), GODL-India, via Wikimedia Commons)

Jammu & Kashmir has been through a lot over the past few years. Since Article 370 was scrapped by the government, the region has been a hotbed of national and some international attention and discourse. Several leaders were placed under house arrest, the internet was suspended, and there were widespread reports of a crackdown on the press.

J&K has been in political limbo during this time. It has been without an elected government since June 2018. Several leaders have been repeatedly calling for assembly elections to be held in the state. Proponents say it’s way past time to gain some electoral ground, but others aren’t in a hurry.


To mark one year of the government’s move to abrogate J&K’s statehood and autonomy, the government decided to celebrate “Ek Bharat, Ek Atma Bharat” (One India campaign) in the Union Territory of J&K. For the BJP, it was a historic moment, but that wasn’t the case for many of the locals.

For the BJP, it was the culmination of a long-standing wish, which it even outlined in the party manifesto for the 2019 election campaign. The primary reason was that J&K would now be fully integrated into the Union in hopes it would end the decades-long militant separatist movement and usher in a new era of growth and development. There’s now the Hindu-majority Jammu and Muslim-majority Kashmir and the Buddhist-majority Ladakh.

The decision to scrap Article 370 came after the BJP won a landslide victory in the 2019 general elections. It was part of the government’s many controversial decisions, including the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in December 2019.

In June 2018, the BJP withdrew support for Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party-led coalition government. They cited the “deteriorating security situation”. Ever since, J&K has had no elected government.

Since 1983, elections were always held between September and December. One exception was in 1987 when it was held in March. In his 2020 Independence Day speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced elections would happen in J&K once the delimitation process is completed. He said J&K will have its own chief minister and ministers and that the government is committed to this endeavour.

In June 2021, Modi said the same thing. In the wake of an all-party meeting of Kashmiri politicians in Delhi, he said the government’s priority is strengthening J&K’s grassroots democracy. He once again mentioned the delimitation process. Last year, in February, Home Minister Amit Shah said elections would happen six to eight months after the delimitation exercise was complete. A few months later, in June, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said elections were likely to be held by the end of the year.

All that time has passed, and there still hasn’t been a decision on assembly elections for J&K. The Election Commission of India (ECI) submitted dates recommended by a special ECI team of three observers. That went nowhere.

VIEW: Necessary steps need to be taken first

From the BJP’s point of view, elections can wait in J&K. That being said, the BJP is being cautious for a few reasons. They want to ensure they’ve got all their ducks in a row to emerge victorious in the elections, once they should take place. Also, the security situation, which, according to the BJP, has improved, might still be an issue in some areas if polls are announced.

The ECI also has its processes to complete. While the delimitation exercise was done and dusted last year with the report already submitted, there’s still the issue of voter rolls. The ECI also needs assurances on the ground that the announcement of poll dates won’t result in an uptick in violence.

There are some encouraging signs. The upcoming Panchayat polls are scheduled for October-November. This will reportedly be the first time three-tier panchayat elections will happen in the Union Territory since independence. This, along with the municipal polls, will serve as a sort of test run for assembly elections to see if the process will go smoothly.

COUNTERVIEW: Overdue for polls

The recent murmurs of simultaneous state and union elections mean assembly elections in J&K are unlikely anytime soon. It’s seen as another excuse or stalling tactic by the BJP government as it continues to drag its feet on the issue. The delimitation exercise, though complete, has been criticised for its rearrangement of political constituencies concerning minority voters in fewer districts or spreading them across many ones.

As far as the ECI is concerned, they haven’t covered themselves in glory either. They’ve not been vocal or very proactive. If J&K’s Chief Electoral Officer is confident of holding municipal and panchayat polls, why not assembly elections? Security isn’t a good reason since panchayat elections need to be conducted on a much larger scale since they involve over 30,000 posts.

The narrative that local body elections are somehow representative of a functional democracy in J&K is a fallacy. The popular theory is that the BJP is certain of a loss. Given how unpopular their decision to scrap Article 370 was, locals have languished in economic and political limbo long enough and are fed up. There have been several reports on the state of human rights in J&K post-2019. There’s an atmosphere of fear. There have been targeted attacks on migrant workers, both Hindu and Muslim. Holding elections and having a relatively stable government in place is vital.

Reference Links:

  • Timeline: A Year of Siege in Kashmir – Vice
  • How Long Will J&K Have to Wait for Assembly Elections? – The Wire
  • Ready for J&K polls any time now, no specific timeframe for statehood: Centre to SC – Hindustan Times
  • With Kashmir Not Yet a Safe Bet for BJP, Modi May Prefer to Drag His Feet Over Assembly Polls – The Wire
  • Civil society, opposition leaders demand Assembly election in Jammu and Kashmir – Frontline

What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)

a) Jammu & Kashmir isn’t overdue for assembly elections.

b) Jammu & Kashmir is overdue for assembly elections.


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Why it matters: The state’s move to introduce cruises in these religious hubs aims to elevate the tourism experience, blending cultural immersion with leisure. The international standard, as indicated by the Dubai-crafted ‘Jatayu’, promises to attract a broader audience, further positioning Uttar Pradesh as a prime tourism destination.

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Why it matters: The Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) highlighted the issue, noting discrepancies in the product’s taste, colour, and odour. Consumers have been advised to avoid using Digene Gel produced at the Goa facility. Despite the recall, Abbott India stated there have been no adverse effects reported by consumers.

MLA salary hike (West Bengal) – West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced a ₹40,000 per month salary hike for Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) in the state. The announcement was made in the West Bengal Assembly, where Banerjee also clarified that her own salary would remain unchanged as she has not been drawing any salary for a long time.

Why it matters: The hike aims to bring the salaries of West Bengal MLAs in line with those in other states. However, the breakup of the actual salaries of the lawmakers has not been provided by the government, which includes allowances and pay for being in committees.

Arogya Mahila scheme expansion (Telangana) – The Arogya Mahila initiative in Telangana, launched by Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao, is set to expand with the addition of 100 more centres for its weekly special clinics dedicated to women. Health Minister, T Harish Rao, announced that these new centres will start operations from September 12, increasing the total number of centres from 272 to 373.

Why it matters: The clinics, held every Tuesday, focus on early diagnosis and have so far screened 278,317 women, with 13,673 requiring further medical attention. The centres are staffed exclusively by female medical personnel and offer eight major medical services, including tests for early detection of cervical and breast cancer.

High-altitude marathon (Arunachal Pradesh) – The state is set to host India’s first-ever mega marathon at an altitude of 10,000 feet above sea level in the Tawang district. This unique event, scheduled for October 1, 2023, is a collaboration between the state government and the Indian Army. The marathon will feature various race segments, including a 5 km race, a 10 km race, a half-marathon, and a full marathon.

Why it matters: Participants from across India, including teams from the Indian Army, Indian Air Force, Indian Navy, and Central Armed Police Forces, are expected to join. The event not only places Tawang on the map for adventure sports but also offers a unique opportunity for participants to experience the region’s natural beauty.


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