Intro: For BJP, people’s mandate in Jammu and Kashmir is a national requirement
It was on June 23-day of Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee’s martyrdom—that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) adopted as its goal, the ambitious task of getting 44+ seats in the upcoming Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Assembly elections.
After adopting this goal at the party’s working committee meeting at Jammu, the BJP leadership declared that the formation of BJP government in the sensitive border of J&K was imperative to achieve four fundamental objectives. First, the defeat of negative forces as represented by the sub-regional, pro-autonomy and essentially sectarian ruling National Confer-ence (NC) and its fake secular ally Congress; of pro-self-rule and militant-friendly People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and separatist outfits in the Valley. Second, removal from the Indian statute book all provisions, including the divisive, anti-people and anti-democratic Article 370, which hampered the process of the state’s complete constitutional, political and economic integration into India. Third, harmonise inter-regional relations between Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and ensure that the state remains intact. And fourth, ending regional discrimination with Jammu and Ladakh; empowering the neglected social groups like refugees from West Pakistan, STs, OBCs, and SCs and, to create conditions conducive for the return of the internally-displaced Kashmiri Hindus to their original habitat, Land of Vitasta (Jhelum).
The victory of the BJP in J&K is a national requirement and these issues plus the issues of governance and inclusive development would be the cornerstones of our election campaign was the upshot of the whole strategy that was evolved after detailed deliberations at BJP’s Jammu meet.
There were potent reasons for the BJP to think in terms of forming the next government in the state. The BJP has just created a history of sorts by winning all the three Lok Sabha (LS) seats in Jammu and Ladakh and getting 32.4 per cent of the total popular votes polled. The BJP led in 25 assembly segments and was runner up in another 12 assembly segments. In the 2009 Lok Sabha election, the BJP had failed to win even a single out of the six LS seats and in the 2008 Assembly elections, it had won only 11 seats and with only 12 per cent of the total votes polled.
In 2014 Parliamentary elections, BJP could put up a very impressive show because it was one versus all in Jammu and Ladakh and also because it was fortunate in having in the persons-prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and party president Rajnath Singh a visionary, inspiring, skillful and effective leadership. Another factor that contributed to the success of the BJP in the state, like in the rest of the country, was the unpopularity of the Congress and its ally NC as well as the divided opposition.
To win an election eight things are needed—leadership, organisation, ideology, vision, cadres, understanding, strategy and planning, commitment and killer’s instinct. The BJP had all of them in plenty in May 2014, when it shocked the entire fake secular class in the country, and surprised even the international community, by winning on its own 282 Lok Sabha seats and forming the first-ever BJP government at the centre and unnerved, shocked and alarmed its political opponents in the state, including the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley, which has 46 members to the 87-member House.
The NC, which polled only 11.1 per cent of the total votes polled and which also included some Congress votes, and the Congress, which polled less than 20 per cent of the total votes polled, which also included some NC votes, this time are going to the polls without any pre-poll alliance. Both are unpopular and have lost their sheen and appeal. The utter irresponsible manner in which the coalition government conducted itself during and after the September devastating floods has further eroded the support-base of the NC and Congress. It is obvious that it is an advantage for the already upbeat BJP. The fact of the matter is that the BJP is likely to sweep Jammu and Ladakh, which together elect 41 members to the Assembly.
Political pundits say that though BJP would perform exceedingly well in Jammu and Ladakh, it is unlikely to achieve its “Mission 44+”. Their argument is that Kashmiri politics is different from that of Jammu and Ladakh, as it is a Muslim-majority area. Their assessment is not based on the ground realities as exists in the Valley today. The Modi factor has changed the whole election dynamics in the Valley and to the extent that even NC working president and outgoing J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who also holds the crucial Home portfolio, has publicly admitted that the BJP could win half a dozen seats in the Kashmir Valley and that it would not be surprising if the BJP achieves its “Mission 44+”. Some of the constituencies where the BJP could win include Sopore, Amira Kadal, Habba Kadal, Ganderbal, Beerwah, Anantnag, Karnah, Kulgam and Devsar.
The prospect of the BJP winning six to seven seats in the Valley has so rattled Omar Abdullah that he has appealed to separatists like Syed Ali Shah Geelani not to give call for poll boycott, saying such a call would only help the BJP and that, if this happens, he and his ilk would be responsible for the rise of the BJP in the Valley. PDP president Mehbooba Mufti has also expressed almost identical view and even gone to the extent of publicly saying that the contest this time is between the PDP and the BJP and the NC and Congress are nowhere in the reckoning. That things in the Kashmir Valley have significantly changed could be seen from the fact the PDP, Kashmiri civil society and even hardcore supporter of Kashmiri separatists like the Supreme Court lawyer Shabnam Lone, sister of separatists Sajjad Lone and Bilal Lone, want Prime Minister Modi to personally handle the relief and rehabilitation work in the flood-ravaged areas of Kashmir Valley. They have rejected outright the suggestion if Modi or his government directly handles the relief and rehabilitation work, it would mean negation of federalism and erosion of the state’s autonomy. All this should clinch the whole issue and indicates the possibility of the BJP replicating Haryana and Maharashtra in J&K.
Hari Om (The writer is former Dean, faculty of Social Sciences, University of Jammu and former Member of Indian Council of Historical Research)