Independents Find It Tough In J&K

17 December 2014
The Economic Times
Zahid Rafiq

Srinagar: In the past two coalition governments in Jammu and Kashmir, Independent candidates were the key figures in government formation, but in the ongoing Assembly elections, communal and regional polarisation in the State has shrunk the space for them. While in Jammu, many former Independent candidates are fighting on the ticket of parties, in Kashmir, Independents are facing a tough competition because of a perceived voter preference for a single party. 'These elections are very different from the earlier ones, and while we have always talked about development and education as our agendas, polarisation got the better of these elections,' Hakeem Mohamad Yasin, an Independent MLA in the outgoing Assembly, told The Hindu. Mr. Yasin joined the National Conference as a young man the year he registered as a voter in his home constituency of Khan Sahib, and cast his first vote for himself in the 1977 election. Mr. Yasin broke with the party after his first term and won the previous three Assembly elections as an Independent candidate. 'I can say with certainty that there will be a coalition government; anything else is hard to predict in these elections. Communalism and regionalism dominated the discourse this time, but I am sure of my victory,' Mr. Yasin said. In the 2008 Assembly elections, six Independent candidates won - three from Kashmir, two from Jammu and one from Ladakh. This time, with the rise of the BJP as a major player trying to consolidate the votes on regional and communal lines in Jammu and on the anti-incumbency factor in the Kashmir valley, the space has shrunk for Independents.