BJP's Kashmir Plans Upset Cong, NC

17 June 2014
Kashmir Observer

Srinagar: The BJP, so far a fringe player in J&K, is not just eying 33 seats in the 87-member assembly but is also looking for a chief ministerial candidate in order to achieve the so far elusive goal of ruling the Himalayan state. The party is hectically pursuing smaller players including National Panthers Party and some independents, party sources said adding that the party brass has decided to eschew the controversial talk about the article 370, which gives a special position to J&K within Indian constitution. The rout of National Conference and Congress in the recently held parliament poll appears the key trigger for such an ambitious political goal. Basking in the halo of Narindera Modi, BJP is seriously pursuing the agenda of winning not less than 33 seats in the 87-member legislative assembly of J&K, media reports Tuesday said. BJP's hectic maneuvering to achieve electoral goals in J&K has, interestingly, set at rest the chronic infighting that inflicts both National Conference and Congress. Both parties are now trying to dissipate the wave the BJP is so tactically trying to set off. 'Congress is rooted in J&K. We don't need to worry. We shall hold rallies in almost every block of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh regions,' said a Congress leader who was privy to a strategy meet between Ghulam Nabi Azad and Saifudin Soz. Azad, the former Union minister, and Soz, who heads J&K Congress, have been bitter foes but the BJP's rise has brought them closer to safeguard what a Congress insider described as the 'mutual party interest'. Youth wing of National Conference also took to streets in Jammu and staged anti-BJP demonstrations. But the ground seems slipping beneath Congress and NC . BJP is buoyed by the interesting statistics the recent Lok Sabha elections have thrown up. By winning 32.4 percent of the votes cast, the BJP has effectively become the single largest political party in J&K in terms of popular votes, ahead of the Congress (22.9 percent), PDP (20.5 percent) and National Conference (11.1 percent). In actual numbers, the BJP got 1.15 million votes, the Congress 8.15 lakh votes, the PDP 7.3 lakh votes and the NC just under four lakh votes. 'There are 37 assembly seats in the Jammu region and we want to maximise our gains in this region. We plan to win at least 32-33 seats in this region itself. The other four seats BJP is targeting are Leh, Nobra, Zanskar and Kargil,' R.P. Singh, in-charge of the BJP in Jammu and Kashmir has said in an interview. 'This time the BJP will not be a fringe player with limited seats, but will play a major role in government formation. The BJP will also have its own chief ministerial candidate in the election.' The party, sources revealed, will start selecting candidates by mid-July and the process will be completed by the first week of September. BJP is also learned to have hired an independent survey agency to prepare a report on the candidates and the major election issues, is also considering opening talks with a few independent legislators. Top news outlets in India reported Monday that the party's plan was to get top BJP leaders, including ministers, to tell the people of Jammu and Kashmir that the BJP-led government at the Centre will get more investment into the state. 'At the same time, the electorate will be assured that there will be no changes to basic laws-meaning Article 370-and that the government will secure the land rights of those who are domiciled in the state that borders Pakistan,' a news portal reported, quoting BJP sources. 'Union cabinet ministers will visit all constituencies. Senior ministers from Punjab and Rajasthan (two other states bordering Pakistan) also will campaign intensely ahead of the elections,' R.P. Singh has said. To push its chances in Jammu, the home ministry is announcing a package of Rs 20 lakh for displaced Kashmiri Pandits to reclaim and rebuild their old homes in the Valley. Elections to Jammu & Kashmir are due in November-December. Unlike the rest of India, assembly elections in this state take place only once in six years. In the last election, the National Conference won 28 seats and now rules in an alliance with the Congress, which won 17 seats. Mehbooba Mufti's PDP, which won 21 seats, swept the Lok Sabha seats in the valley this time. It will be hoping to replace the National Conference in government the next time. In the run up to the Lok Sabha elections, it was speaking softly about the BJP. 'The BJP, which won 11 assembly seats in 2008, will be hoping to improve its tally to over 30-35 - though the stretch target may be 44. It is seeking to rope in the Panthers Party, which won three seats in 2008,' reported First Post, India's fast growing news portal, which is now owned by Ambanis.