The BJP In Kashmir

1 September 2014
Express Tribune
Seema Mustafa

New Delhi: This is a year of elections for India. We seem to be in a perpetual voting mode, with the political parties largely occupied in fighting for space on the ground. And such is the Indian dynamics, where the villager is astute, wise even is cynical, that the politicians are being kept on their toes to effect permutations and combinations that strike the lottery! The result is continuing foment with the political dust not settling down. After the high voltage campaign that had the BJP coming into power, and the Opposition decimated, the electorate seems to have paused for some food for thought. And is not as influenced by the drum beating as one would have expected just three months after the general elections where the BJP was voted into power with a thumping tally of 283 Lok Sabha seats. By-elections for the assembly seats in states like Uttarakhand and the all-important Bihar have reflected a trend away from the BJP, making it clear that the voters are not prepared to live with a honeymoon for long until their demands are met and desires, if not satiated, at least addressed. In Uttarakhand, the BJP lost all three seats to the Congress, one in fact being particularly significant as it was considered a BJP bastion. In Bihar, the secular forces of Nitish Kumar, Lalu Prasad Yadav and the Congress (a late entrant) managed to secure six of the 10 seats where elections were held again. This is no mean achievement, considering the fact that the BJP had swept into power in Bihar just three months ago. Maharashtra, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir go to the polls this year with BJP President Amit Shah making it clear that he expects the party to come to power in all these states on its own. In a major gesture of confidence, he has negated all alliances, making it clear to the state units of his party that it should aim for power and prepare accordingly. This has created some heartburning amongst the allies in these states, but clearly the BJP is on an ascendant and not particularly worried about the reactions of say Shiv Sena in Maharashtra or the smaller parties it has worked with in Haryana. These states are crucial also because there are Congress-led governments in all three, and a reversal will add substantially to the BJP's 'feel good' factor. Party president Amit Shah visited Jammu recently, with the border state being given high priority by the party and its government as well. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has visited the area twice in quick succession. The BJP hopes to consolidate the vote in its favour in Jammu and Ladakh, replacing not just the Congress but the National Conference (NC) as well. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led by Mehbooba Mufti has a base in the Kashmir Valley but never really enjoyed sufficient support in the other parts of the state. So while it is expected to trounce the NC in the Valley, it might not gain as much as the BJP in Jammu and Ladakh. The BJP has set up an active unit in Kashmir and is hoping to open its account in the valley with a couple of seats, if not more. Its proposed understanding with the PDP does not seem to have moved ahead, with the leaders of both exchanging jibes at the moment. Instead, the BJP has opened channels of communication with smaller parties like Sajad Lone and his Peoples Conference. They are in touch for some basic understanding before the elections, that could emerge out of the closet as an open alliance after the polls if so required. Shah has made it clear that he would like a 'nationalist' party, namely the BJP, to come to power in Jammu and Kashmir. Boycott of the polls, a standard call by the separatists, is this time becoming a double-edged sword for the non-BJP political parties. Mainly as in at least six to eight of the Assembly segments there is a concentration of Kashmiri Pandits with the BJP working to get at least more than a lakh to be further registered as voters from these constituencies. If the non-Pandits heed the boycott call as they always do and stay indoors, the vote cast will ensure victory for the BJP. All in all, interesting times ahead !