SEEMA MUSTAFA | 25 AUGUST, 2014
Kashmiris vote in Lok Sabha polls
NEW DELHI: A major controversy is raging through Jammu and Kashmir with one section led by the separatists insisting on boycotting the forthcoming Assembly elections as always, and the other led by the non-BJP parties emphatic that the boycott this time would help the BJP get more than a foothold in the Valley. There is deep worry that the boycott of these elections could alter the poll dynamics in Kashmir substantially in favour of the BJP.
The boycott usually works in Habba Kadal, Sopore, Anantnag, Bijbehara, Amira Kadal and Tral constituencies where the polling has been almost negligible in the past. Political leaders and others in the Valley are now worried that while the boycott call would work on a section of the vote, another section being specifically targeted by the BJP would then be able to consolidate and with just a few thousand votes bring the BJP candidates to power in some of these Assembly segments.
The BJP and RSS leaders are on a massive enrolment drive in the state. Statistics maintain that of four lakh Kashmiri voters, only 126,000 are registered. BJP leaders have explained to reporters that they are hoping to get at least another 30,000 new voters registered in time for the Assembly elections. More so as the Kashmiri pandits have a major presence in all above mentioned seats constitution more than ten per cent of the electorate here. The other political parties fear that a boycott call would drive the Kashmiri Muslims indoors, and with the new registered electorate altering the political voting dynamics of these constituencies altogether.
As a senior journalist from Kashmir told The Citizen, if the BJP even gets two to three Assembly constituencies from Kashmir that in itself is a big development.
BJP president Amit Shah is currently visiting Jammu and Kashmir to make a determined push for his party’s Kashmir Mission +44 plan. He said that the days of the National Conference government were now numbered, and that the BJP would come to power in the state winning the majority of the 87 Assembly seats in the state. He will be addressing a public rally in the Kathua district of Jammu.
Appeals are being made to separatist leaders not to issue a boycott call against the elections. Significantly state chief minister Omar Abdullah said the same to his party workers, maintaining that the boycott call would help the BJP that was trying to open an account in the Valley under the slogan “Dilli Huyi Hamari, Ab Kashmir ki Bari.” He further added, “boycott has not helped in the resolution of Kashmir, boycott has not even helped the venerable separatist leader Geelani.”
Abdullah further said that the boycott would ensure that the people of Kashmir were controlled from (RSS headquarters) in Nagpur.
Boycott has a major impact in the above constituencies with the electorate staying at home. Shah and the BJP are currently keen to ensure that Kashmiri pandits and others who left the Valley during the years of militancy reclaim their voting rights, and thereby take advantage of the low poll to help their candidates win the elections. The BJP has floated a Kashmir unit that is currently rather active in the Valley.
A new controversy has emerged with the statement by Minister for Public Health Engineering Sham Lal Sharma who wanted to know why Jammu and Kashmir could not have a Hindu Chief Minister. “Where in the Constitution has it been written that a Hindu from Jammu cannot become chief minister of the state,” he asked. This has enthused the BJP in particular with Shah also hinting at his preference for the same when he said at a recent meeting that “Imaine the message that would go around the world, if we succeed in installing a BJP leader as the democratically elected chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir.”
Interestingly these remarks were followed by reports on the social media that the BJP was looking to make Peoples Conference leader Sajad Lone the chief minister if it won the elections. As reported in The Citizen the BJP has been in close touch with Lone for an alliance in Kashmir. The talks have been quiet, but have clearly made some headway. Lone did not want to comment on the reports about being made the chief minister although sources close to him were categorical that he was not taking these seriously at all. However, in a post poll scenario where the BJP might do well the PC is one of the parties in the state that can be expected to extend its support.
The BJP led in 30 of the 37 Assembly segments in Jammu and three of the four in Ladakh. Shah will be working to ensure that the party wins a majority of these seats, even though in the last elections it had won only 11 of the seats in Jammu and none in Ladakh. It also did not win a single of the 46 seats in the Kashmir Valley.
The Peoples Democratic Party that has been in touch wih both the BJP and the Congress, is worried about the formers efforts to move into the elections on its own. The PDP will be redundant if the BJP scores as expected in Jammu and Ladakh and hence place itself in a position to form the government with support from smaller parties like the Peoples Conference. The fall back position for the BJP of course would be an understanding with the PDP if so required, and if the figures add up.
The go it alone strategy, as Shah has clearly indicated, is prompted largely by the ‘prize catch’ that the border and highly sensitive state of Jammu and Kashmir is for the BJP that is leaving no stone unturned to garner as many votes as possible. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has visited the state more than once less than 100 days and pointed to this himself, by saying no other Prime Minister had done so in the past.