Has BJP's Kashmir Poll Plan Failed?

18 December 2014
Greater Kashmir
Muddasir Ali

Srinagar: As focus shifts from polling to counting in J&K assembly elections, the BhartiyaJanta Party's 'Mission' which had focused on entering the Valley electorally this election may fall flat owing to low response by migrant Kashmiri Pandits to the polls. On Thursday, BJP's candidate for HabbaKadal constituency here, MotiLalKoul alleged that the J&K government and Election Commission authorities had made the process for participation of Kashmiri migrant Pandits in the election 'cumbersome'. Among other factors, the party was banking on participation of KPs to win a few seats in the Valley which has traditionally rejected the right-wing party. But Koul's statement that Pandits' participation could have been 'far better had the process being made smoother', in a way reflects, that BJP's 'Mission Kashmir' might have gone off the track. With Pandit electorate strength of 16710, the highest in any constituency across Kashmir, HabbaKadal segment, having history of low turnout, was the only seat where the BJP had given 'sleepless nights' to regional parties. On the election day, however, only 2817 Pandit voters from the constituency cast their vote out of more than 11,000 votes polled. In fact, HabbaKadal recorded lowest participation of Pandits among all eight constituencies of the summer capital. 'The Election Commission authorities were not serious to make the process hassle-free for the (Pandit) community and the government's lack of interest added to the problem,' Koul alleged. However, he said the party would throw up 'surprise' on the counting day on December 23. Data collected about other districts also showed KPs low participation in the poll process. According to official data, of 30364 migrant voters registered in eight assembly segments of Srinagar, only 5169 cast their vote despite vigorous campaign launched by BJP across India to mobilize migrant voters. The overall migrant voting percentage didn't touch 17 in Srinagar which, according to observers, might deal a blow to BJP's plans. 'We did our duty, approached them (migrant Pandits) for votes like we approached other voters and they did their duty,' said BJP's JK Affairs In-charge. AvinashRai Khanna. 'The lotus will bloom in Kashmir,' he said and had a laugh while responding to a question about party's expectations from elections in Kashmir. While the total voter population of migrant Pandits across Kashmir is over 92000, their participation in the election in other districts too was on lower side. For example in Ganderbal and Bandipora districts, which went to polls during the first phase of elections, of 3411 migrant voters, a little over 1000 cast their ballot. Likewise, of 17015 registered migrant voters, only 5258 voters exercised their franchise in the second phase of elections. During the third phase held in 16 constituencies, of 19,575 registered migrant voters in three districts of Baramulla, Budgam and Pulwama, only 4717 voters cast their ballot.