BJP's 'Mission 44+' Faces A Roadblock In Kashmir Valley
7 November 2014
: Buoyed by its performance in the Lok Sabha elections in Jammu and Kashmir, Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) is trying to make inroads in the Valley by fielding Kashmiri Muslims and Pandits in the Assembly election to accomplish its 'Mission 44-plus', a feat that will enable it to form a government in India's only Muslim-majority state. Notwithstanding the efforts by the BJP to enroll a number of Muslim leaders and workers in the party fold, it will have to go that extra mile to win over the trust and confidence of the majority community in the state. Going by the past records, the BJP is yet to make its presence felt in the Valley, where some of the candidates fielded by the party could manage to get votes because of their local influence. The Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly has 87 seats - 46 from Kashmir valley, 37 from Jammu region and four from Ladakh. In its first list, BJP has given mandate to 10 Muslims and three Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley for Assembly elections. They are Eshfaq-ur Rehman Poswal from Karnah, Desh Kumar Nehru from Rafiabad, Nazir Ahmad Raina from Kangan, Hakim Masood from Hazratbal, Ashok Bhat from Khanyar, Moti Kaul from Habbakadal, Hina Bhat from Amirakadal, Mustaq Noorabadi from Noorabad, Ghulam Nabi Dar from Homeshalibugh, Fayaz Ahmad Bhat from Devsar, Sofi Yousuf from Pahalgam, Abdul Rehman Takri from Bandipora and Sheikh Rashid from Ganderbal. No Modi wave was visible during the Parliamentary elections in Kashmir as BJP candidates from Anantnag, Srinagar and Baramulla together got only 15845 votes in Lok Sabha elections while the party nominees got 15650 votes during 2008 Assembly elections. But, the BJP this time is eying votes of Kashmiri Pandits to bag five Assembly seats - Habbakadal, Amirakadal, Sopore, Khanyar and Tral - in the Valley. The saffron party is hopeful that if the polling percentage of the Muslim voters is low in these areas following an election boycott call given by separatist leaders, Kashmiri Pandits can help in securing these five seats for the saffron party. Among these five seats, BJP has contested on three in 2008 Assembly elections. However, the performance was not reassuring. In Amirakadal constituency, which saw a voter turnout of 14.98 per cent in the last Assembly election, BJP secured just 149 votes and ended on 11th position. In Habbakadal, which saw a voter turnout of 11.62, the BJP was a distant second with 671 votes. In Tral constituency in north Kashmir district of Baramulla, which recorded a voter turnout of 48 per cent, BJP bagged 16th position with 338 votes. Meanwhile, the party is trying its luck for the first time in Khanyar (17.41 per cent voter turnout in 2008) and Sopore (19.95 per cent). Similarly BJP will have to win all the 37 seats in Jammu region and four in Ladakh to accomplish 'Mission 44-plus' in the state. Even thought BJP won both the seats in Jammu and the solitary seat from Ladakh in the Lok Sabha elections, Assembly elections will be a different ball game altogether. Of the 10 districts in Jammu region five - Jammu, Kathua, Samba, Reasi and Udhampur - have a Hindu majority while the remaining, Doda, Rajouri, Kishtwar, Ramban and Poonch, have a Muslim majority. Political experts believe that BJP will improve its tally considerably, but, given the polarisation in Jammu region it will be an uphill task for the party to win seats in Muslim dominated areas though it has roped in many Muslims in its party fold. The BJP candidate also for the first time won the Ladakh seat in the state, though the margin of win was just 36 votes. BJP's Thupstan Chhewang secured 27,429 votes in the two Assembly segments of Leh district - 23471 in Leh and 3958 votes in Nobra while his performance in Kargil district was abysmal with 3,275 votes. Kargil district comprises of two Assembly segments Kargil and Zanskar, where Chhewang managed 1,936 and 1,339 votes respectively. Even thought during his visit to the region, Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised jobs, development and forced economic migration of Ladakh's Muslim majority population, time will decide whether Modi was able to motivate the people of Leh and Kargil districts to vote for his party. Having said that, BJP will play an important role in the government formation in the state.