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GOWHAR GEELANI | 28 DECEMBER, 2014

Signals From The Elections in J&K

BJP led by Modi campaigned vigorously in J&K and won 25 seats in Jammu


SRINAGAR:The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) appears to be desperate to form a government in Jammu and Kashmir.

While the BJP leaders are absolutely right in showcasing and highlighting their success in the recently held assembly elections (winning 25 assembly segments in Jammu ) they conveniently hide their utter failure in the Kashmir Valley where all, but one, of their 34 candidates lost their security desposit.

The reasons for the BJP’s insistence to form the government in this sensitive border state are twofold: one, a BJP government in Jammu and Kashmir would underscore its claim of a so-called Modi wave;

And two, it would bolster the Delhi argument that the people of the state have reposed faith in Indian democracy and abandoned their political aspirations once for all.

The Indian news channels have contributed to oversimplification of the high voter turnout in the Kashmir Valley by interpreting it as a ‘success of Indian democracy’ and ‘defeat of the resistance ideology’.

Both interpretations are self-defeating and could prove counter-productive in as politically a volatile region as Jammu & Kashmir.

Yes, the people of Jammu & Kashmir did come to vote in large numbers despite the passionate calls for boycott from the resistance camp, especially from the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) led by octogenarian Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

Yes, the election boycott strategy did fail on the ground.

Yes, most leaders of the Hurriyat Conference and Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) failed to read the pulse of the people.

That said, the fact remains that the massive voting was in no way a rejection of the resistance ideology or Azadi sentiment. Both stay very much intact.

There is no reason for the Indian think-tanks and over-enthusiastic media to draw hasty conclusions from the simple exercise of casting a vote for jobs, development, uninterrupted power supply, good roads, pure drinking water, better healthcare and quality education.

One must also understand and acknowledge the fact that most of the resistance leaders, including Mohammad Yasin Malik, were either put in jail or placed under house arrest much before the assembly elections. In the name of democracy they were not allowed to go ahead with their poll boycott campaign.

Moreover, the poll exercise in Jammu & Kashmir was conducted in presence of more than 600,000 Indian troops and 100,000 local policemen.

The army and police chiefs have been on record saying that there are only 100 odd militants active across all the regions of Jammu & Kashmir. The huge presence of the uniform in the Valley thus demonstrates that the Indian state views Kashmir mostly through the security prism.

There are however serious questions for the Hurriyat leaders to seek answers and introspect on.

They have enough time to rethink their poll boycott strategy and perhaps understand and respect democratic behaviour of the Kashmiri people who have given enough indication that they want to pursue their political struggle through peaceful means.

For sometime now there has been a debate in Kashmir's intellectual circles whether there is a need to de-link the local elections from the larger political dispute of Jammu and Kashmir, because in any situation of certainty or uncertainty people do need basic facilities and deserve to have dreams and aspirations.

Those estranged voices who say they have nothing to do with the assembly elections are either far away from the ground realities in Jammu & Kashmir or deliberately behaving as flightless bird, Ostrich. They have the right to be in the denial mode for ever.

Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) finds itself in a Catch-22 situation. On the one hand, the PDP leadership is tempted to join hands with the BJP to form government but on the other hand it is weighing pros and cons of such a potential political suicide.

And the Omar Abdullah led National Conference (NC) is in a win-win situation despite winning only 15 assembly constituencies, one of its worst ever performances in Jammu & Kashmir.

If the PDP forms government while partnering the BJP, Omar will show his cards and impress upon the people of Jammu & Kashmir that he stands vindicated. During the election campaign Omar on many occasions said that the PDP was in a ‘secret deal’ with the BJP.

In case the PDP decides to renounce power and sit in the opposition Omar would be more than happy to join hands with the BJP and be part of the coalition government, risking his party’s political future and believing in hope that a lot of things change in six years.

The Congress party, which has won only 12 seats, has no other choice than to adopt wait and watch policy. At best, its leaders can make offers to the PDP that their party is willing to partner it with an aim to keep a communal force like the BJP at bay!

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