India’s Election Resumes Amid Kashmir Discontent

Mon May 13 2024
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SRINAGAR, India: India’s ongoing six-week election is set to resume, including in the highly contentious region of Kashmir, where voters are poised to express their discontent with significant changes implemented by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. While Modi enjoys widespread popularity across much of India, his government’s decision in 2019 to revoke Kashmir’s special status and impose direct rule from New Delhi has stirred deep resentment among the region’s residents.

Former chief minister Omar Abdullah, representing the National Conference party, emphasizes the importance of voters making their voices heard amidst ongoing tensions. The Kashmiri electorate, voting for the first time since the contentious move, is urged to convey their dissatisfaction with the loss of autonomy and increased central control.

Kashmir, a disputed territory claimed by both India and Pakistan, has been a longstanding flashpoint in South Asia, marred by decades of conflict and insurgency. Modi’s government justifies its actions as promoting peace and development in the region, despite widespread criticism and allegations of human rights violations.

The absence of BJP candidates in the Kashmir valley underscores the party’s recognition of its limited support base in the region. Experts suggest that the BJP would face significant defeat if it contested, prompting the party to back smaller parties aligned with Modi’s policies instead.

The election, conducted in multiple phases across the country, aims to accommodate logistical challenges in administering the democratic process to India’s vast population. However, declining turnout compared to previous elections raises concerns, attributed to voter apathy amid perceived certainty of Modi’s reelection and adverse weather conditions.

As the election progresses, heightened security measures and efforts to mitigate the impact of heatwaves on voter participation underscore the complexities and challenges inherent in India’s democratic exercise.

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