BJP's Much-hyped Entry Changing J&K 'boycott' Politics

11 December 2014
The Indian Express
Bashaarat Masood

Srinagar: At Tral Payeen, men slowly trickle towards the polling booth. And as the voters from the minority Sikh community move towards the booth, the trickle changes into a stream of men. After two hours of polling, 86 votes had been polled at the polling station in Tral. There are indications that the ground is shifting in the epicentre of Kashmir's poll boycott politics and the reason is BJP's much-hyped entry in the state. The turnout has gone up - Tral in south Kashmir and Sopore in north Kashmir - the two constituencies that saw less than a per cent turnout in Lok Sabha polls. 'There is a fear. The fear of BJP,' said Ghulam Mohammad Bhat (64). 'We have been boycotting elections all these years. But this time people will come out, come out to vote. We have good population of Sikh community and the number of migrant voters is also substantial,' he said. 'We fear if we don't vote, BJP may win this seat. Nobody wants that.' Tral, a constituency in south Kashmir's Pulwama district, has several thousand Sikh voters and total number of migrant voters is 1,445. The BJP has fielded a Sikh candidate hoping to swing the Sikh voters in their favour. In the parliamentary elections, less than a 1,000 votes had been polled here and a repeat of that would have meant an easy sail for the BJP. This time, the constituency polled 37 per cent votes. In north Kashmir, the turnout in Sopore too has seen an increase. The native town of Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani and a separatist stronghold, Sopore has a reputation of staying away from elections. On Tuesday, Sopore polled 30.29 per cent votes - showing an increase of more than 10 per cent from the 2008 assembly elections and 29 per cent increase from the parliamentary elections earlier this year. 'There is a fear or that the fear has been created that BJP will come to power if people don't vote,' said Nisar Ahmad Wani. 'Many candidates who are contesting went door-to-door asking for votes. They said if we don't vote it will help BJP.' Though Sopore has around two thousand registered migrant voters, the BJP has not fielded a candidate from Sopore to help the candidate of Sajad Lone's Peoples' Conference. The BJP had its eyes on Sopore and was banking on a boycott to see PC candidate sail through with the help of migrant Pandit votes.