BJP Banking On Separatists For Opening Account In LA Polls From Kashmir

8 November 2014
The New Indian Express
Fayaz Wani

Srinagar: BJP, which favours tough policy on Jammu and Kashmir and suspended talks with Pakistan for its envoy talking to Kashmiri separatist leaders, is banking on separatists to win a seat from the Valley in State Assembly polls, beginning November 25. BJP has released names of 49 candidates for the 87-member J&K Assembly, elections for which will be held in five phases. The party has so far named 9 Muslim candidates from the Valley, which has got 46 Assembly seats. BJP has not won a single seat from the Valley in the Assembly elections held in the State so far. However, this time BJP think tank lead by party president Amit Shah has devised the strategy to open account in the Valley in the polls. The party intends to cash-in on the election boycott call given by the separatist groups and leaders. BJP insiders said the party wants to use the separatists' poll boycott call to its advantage. 'The party leaders have analysed the polls results of last few Assembly elections and come to conclusions that some seats in the Valley witness very low turnout due to poll boycott. They party is focusing on some of these seats, where migrant Kashmiri Pandits have large chunks of votes and their participation in ballot can turn the tide in favour of BJP,' they said. They said there are focusing on four to five such seats - Habba Kadal, Amira Kadal (both Srinagar), Sopore (North Kashmir), Pulwama, Tral and Shopian (South Kashmir). All the Assembly segments have sizeable number of migrant Kashmiri Pandits as voters. They said if half of migrant Kashmiri Pandit voters eligible to cast votes exercise their franchise in the six sensitive seats , then party's chances of winning increases as there will be low voter turnout in the Valley and there will also be division of votes. Polling stations will be set up for migrant Kashmiri Pandits in Jammu, where the migrant community member can cast their votes. Habba Kadal constituency in downtown Srinagar has over 24000 migrant Pandit votes. In 2008 Assembly polls, NC's Shameema Firdous had won elections from the seat by securing just 2374 votes. Her nearest rival was BJP's Hira Lal Chatta, who had got 672 votes. The Assembly seat had witnessed only 11.62 per cent polling. BJP this time has given mandate to another Kashmiri Pandit Moti Kaul from the seat. Similarly, Amira Kadal and Sopore Assembly seats have over 12000 and 6000 migrant votes respectively. Pulwama, Tral and Shopian seats in South Kashmir have also sizeable number of migrant Pandit votes. The Amira Kadal constituency, where from BJP has fielded Hina Bhat - daughter of Mohammad Shafi Bhat, former NC MP and Congress MLA - witnessed only 14.97 per cent voting in 2008 polling. NC's Nasir Aslam Wani won the seat by securing 3912 votes while his nearest opponent was PDP's Parvez Ahmad Bhat with 3103 votes. The Sopore assembly seat, which is considered stronghold of separatists, witnessed 19.96 per cent turnout in 2008 polls. Of the total electorate of 90259 only 18019 exercised their right to franchise. NC's Mohammad Ashraf Ganai won the seat by securing 4368 votes and Congress party's Abdur Rashid Dar was runner-up with 3304 votes. 'We are hoping that migrant Kashmiri Pandits, who are living in camps in Jammu and settled in other parts of the country, will vote in large numbers for the party candidates and tilt the balance in favour of the party in some of the key seats,' senior State BJP leader said. BJP spokesperson for Kashmir, Khalid Jehangir, said the party will make a history in Kashmir this time by not only opening its account but winning many seats.