Analysis

“Modi-wave” & J&K Polls

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is apparently confident that “Modi-wave” will help it win Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) assembly elections. The five-phase election process has begun here, the results of which are scheduled to be declared on 23 December.

J&K is the only state in India where Muslims are not in a minority. Nevertheless, BJP’s confidence rests partly on it having secured victory in three of six seats in Lok Sabha from this state. The other three were won by People’s Democratic Party (PDP), with Congress and National Conference (NC) having failed to win even a single seat.

At present, the ruling party in J&K is NC with support of Congress. It may not be wrong to assume that J&K assembly elections may play a decisive role in pushing NC out of power. However, this does not guarantee BJP a majority on its own strength in this state for several reasons.

Despite Lok Sabha results indicating BJP’s success on fifty percent of seats from J&K, it would be erroneous to assume that this would be repeated in assembly elections. There is a major difference between elections to six Lok Sabha seats and that of the state assembly, which has 87 seats. Besides, in Lok Sabha polls BJP succeeded in securing only 32.4 percent of votes, a political reality that is likely to display itself more strongly in assembly elections.

Undeniably, ever since its success in Lok Sabha polls, political tide appears to have favoured BJP fairly strongly in several assembly elections across the country. At the same time, it cannot be ignored that BJP has tasted greater success in states where its key rival is the Congress. The results have not favoured it totally in states where regional parties appear to exercise a strong role. This political reality manifested itself recently in results to the Maharashtra assembly where regional parties like Shiv Sena and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) still enjoy considerable support. Thus, despite BJP having emerged as the leading party, winning 122 of 288 seats in Maharashtra assembly, it failed to win enough number of seats to be able to form the state government on its own strength. The situation would have been different if Shiv Sena had not secured victory in 63 and NCP in 41 seats. Had these numbers favoured BJP, Congress victory in 42 seats would not have deterred BJP from securing majority in Maharashtra assembly.

Similarly, BJP cannot afford to remain oblivious of the role that regional parties and their leaders can play in J&K assembly elections. In the outgoing state assembly, BJP has 11 members. NC has 28, PDP 21, Congress 17, Panthers’ Party 3 while four are independent members and three are from three other parties.

There is no denying that the phase during which 2008 J&K assembly elections were held was not affected by any Modi-wave. Rather, the situation was totally different. BJP’s success in 11 seats in 2008 J&K assembly polls compared to its victory on only one seat in 2002 assembly elections was definitely a major success for this party. Perhaps, if BJP could increase its position in 2008 J&K assembly elections without any Modi-wave and without being in power at the Centre, the party has all the reason to be confident that it can do the same during these polls, that too with a greater impact.

Yet, there is another aspect linked with J&K which cannot be ignored. It may be recalled that though BJP performed extremely well in Lok Sabha elections, its success was primarily confined to the Hindi belt. J&K falls in that group of states, which are not in the Hindi belt. So far, political scenario in South Indian states has been given importance while studying their political culture from the angle of their not being a part of Hindi belt. The same approach needs attention in J&K. In fact, considering the discriminatory approach that tends to be exercised towards Muslims from J&K from largely communally oriented, extremist parties with an anti-Muslim bias, this approach needs greater attention in J&K.

Just as it is too early to expect a grand success for BJP in certain states outside the Hindi-belt, the same may be said about its prospects in J&K. BJP may certainly succeed in winning more seats than 11. With this mission in hand, BJP appears to be giving greater importance to advertisement, as a part of its political campaign, than any other party in race for J&K assembly.

But this is one side of the political scenario. A lot depends on how many Kashmiris actually exercise their democratic right to vote. In this context, the role of certain Kashmiri leaders in issuing notices, calling on people to boycott elections cannot be ignored. Certainly, main leaders in this political drama are a few Kashmiri Muslims, who expect Kashmiris to respond actively to their call for boycotting polls. It is hoped that all Kashmiris would actively exercise their democratic right to vote. Irrespective of Modi-wave’s fate, in essence, Kashmiris’ democratic future is at stake! 

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 December 2014 on page no. 11

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