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#4787, 23 December 2014

Jammu & Kashmir State Elections

J&K: The Fractured Mandate
Shujaat Bukhari
Editor, Rising Kashmir

A political commentator has rightly advised that no exit poll should be conducted in respect of Jammu and Kashmir. This has come true today as nothing can be predicted about the mood of the people, particularly in Kashmir valley. After intense and colourful campaigning spread over two months, the most watched Assembly elections threw up many surprises, except for Jammu region where Bhartiya Janata Party was expected to register a decent victory. Though BJP’s much publicized Mission 44 + got foiled as the party drew a blank from Muslim majority Valley, its victory can still be seen as spectacular. Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which was banking upon ostensible anti-incumbency against the Omar Abdullah led coalition government, too was shocked to see its performance.

The results that finally came up do not promise to end the coalition era as the mandate is fractured beyond the expectations of the political parties. The numbers have placed all the parties particularly two leading ones—PDP and BJP in a piquant position. The alignments are too difficult to mature thus leading to a phase of uncertainty as far as government formation is concerned. No permutations and combinations can easily be stitched as those having potential to forge an alliance have completely diverse ideologies. If one takes the example of PDP with 28 seats and BJP with 25 joining the hands, it may take days for them to build a consensus, put their ideological standpoints on the back burner and seek commitments from each other and draw a common minimum programme.

As the saying goes “Politics is Art of Impossible”. This could also happen as many within both BJP and PDP would not see each other as untouchable. But it would be a long jump for both and the road is bumpy. For PDP the mandate has a pro Kashmir element in it that was triggered partly due to BJP’s extra efforts in the Valley. So the fine balance would be a test that may be difficult for it to pass.

With both Ghulam Nabi Azad (Congress) and Omar Abdullah (NC) not ruling out the consideration of support to PDP, new combinations may emerge to move forward on government formation. Omar hinted of NC’s support to PDP while saying “There is a crack (in the window) open for the PDP… if Mufti Sayeed picks up the phone,” in an interview on Tuesday. The two regional parties NC and PDP should not ignore the possibility of an alliance in the larger interest of the people.

But in both cases PDP would require the support of “others” to cobble up the numbers. And above all, it may not like, rather afford to affront the NDA government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Any new government in Srinagar would require whole-hearted support from New Delhi in terms of both economic and political agendas and on the face of it the current government is not going to do that unless it has stakes in the power structure. What has become apparent in last eight months is that Modi is not Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who without caring about his party’s political interests in Jammu and Kashmir would support a government in the state. The BJP has heavily invested in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and has reaped the benefit partly. Its right, left and centre campaign during the elections stands testimony to the fact that it was seriously making inroads into the state. It is a different issue that the party drew a blank in Kashmir valley.

Moreover, even if the PDP-Congress or for that matter an NC supported PDP led government is formed, it will lack the full representation of Jammu region and will not be inclusive one. The ultimate result would again push the state into instability as a government with oxygen from one or the other corner cannot deliver on ground.  It, however, remains to be seen as to how much time it will take for the PDP as the leading party to push itself into government formation. Next few days are crucial for Jammu and Kashmir as the course of action will surely set the direction for the politics which is divided on several lines.

What is, however, disturbing is the fact that verdict has been delivered on the basis of religion. Except for Ladakh region, both Kashmir and Jammu seem to have voted purely in a polarized manner. BJP worked hard to consolidate the Hindu vote in Jammu region and even spread its hands to Chenab where it has for the first time registered a remarkable victory. BJP’s sweep in the region, except for two seats of Nagrota and Bishna, which went to NC, shows it clearly how the electorate has behaved. Though NC is boasting that it has the pan Jammu and Kashmir presence, the victory’s credit in three seats goes more to the candidates who were fighting elections on its ticket. In Zanskar it had supported an Independent candidate and he won. Likewise in Kashmir valley, results show that the votes were polled by a particular party, though here there is no mixed presence of political parties who would ask for votes on the basis of religion. This division within the Kashmir and Jammu regions poses a threat to the unity of the state and that is why it has emerged as a strong factor for keeping the political parties away from coming together in the formation of the government.

Vote margin by which BJP has lost in most constituencies in Valley indicate that its entry and acceptance here is not going to be an easy one. BJP voters compared to non-BJP voters in Valley make it clear: Amira Kadal 11,726 to 1359 (BJP); Anantnag 16983 to 1275 (BJP); Bandipora 25,084 to 565; Batmaloo 12,542 to 1304; Bijbehara 23581 to 1591 (BJP); Budgam 30090 to 880 (BJP); Chrar-i-Sharif 32,849 to 845 (BJP); Hazratbal 13, 234 to 2635 (BJP); Khanyar 6505, 550 (BJP); and so on. The polarization is a reality though political parties continue to be in denial.

By arrangement with Rising Kashmir

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