'Mission 44 Plus' Tall Task For BJP In J&K

16 June 2014
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Arteev Sharma

Jammu: Given the 'credibility crisis' after cross-voting in the legislative council elections in 2011 and the serious challenge of finding potential candidates for the upcoming Assembly elections, the BJP's 'mission 44 plus' to form the next government in Jammu and Kashmir appears to be a distant dream. In the 87-member Assembly, excluding two nominated woman members, the BJP requires 44 members to form the government. It has only nine members at present, excluding two expelled MLAs. The party is buoyed by its best-ever performance in the General Election and has set the target of 'mission 44 plus' for Assembly elections. It had won three of the six parliamentary seats in the state. The party had taken a lead over the Congress in at least 25 Assembly segments. Fifteen of those are in the Jammu-Poonch Lok Sabha seat, nine in Udhampur-Doda and one in Ladakh. Insiders said the BJP had been facing a major challenge in selecting 'potential and deserving' candidates for all 87 seats. 'It has been a Herculean task before the state unit of the party to find potential and deserving candidates for all 87 seats in the Assembly elections. The cross-voting fiasco in 2011, in which seven of the 11 MLAs voted against the party candidate in legislative council elections, dented the party's image,' they said. They said it would not be an easy task for the party leadership to find suitable candidates and replace the seven MLAs who were expelled on the charge of cross-voting. Five of them were taken back into the party fold before the General Election. 'The party managed to take a lead in at least 24 seats of the 37 segments of Jammu province because of Narendra Modi wave in the region. Despite the increase in vote percentage, the party's performance on all 46 Assembly seats remained dismal. It took a lead in only one of the four seats in Ladakh,' they said. A senior leader of the party said on the condition of anonymity, 'The General Election was contested in Modi's name. In the Assembly elections, the image of candidates matters. It is difficult for the party to select some candidates with a clean image.' He said the party was trying to rope in some non-political persons with a clean image to replace some sitting MLAs, but this step was likely to mar the prospects of the party because of the danger of party rebels. Prof Hari Om, political adviser to the state BJP president, claimed that the party would win 44 seats in the upcoming Assembly elections. 'In the elections in 1998-99, the party had secured the maximum votes in 32 of the 37 Assembly segments in Jammu province he recalled. 'Despite the fact that the Congress and the National Conference had jointly fielded Ghulam Nabi Azad from the Udhampur-Doda parliamentary constituency, the BJP had taken a lead in a majority of segments. This will be repeated in the upcoming Assembly elections,' he said.He claimed that it was an open secret that Muslims voted in favour of the BJP. 'People have rejected the National Conference and the Congress and are now looking for a better option. We will open our account in Kashmir and form the next government in the state,' he asserted.