BJP No Longer 'untouchable' In Kashmir

22 July 2014
The Hindustan Times
Toufiq Rashid

Srinagar: After coming to power at the Centre, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) no longer seems to be an 'untouchable' in Kashmir. Looking at '44 plus' seats to get an absolute majority in the upcoming assembly elections in the state, the party seems to be making inroads in the Valley. On Sunday, the J&K unit of Janata Dal announced its merger with the BJP. According to party officials, the BJP, which has never won a seat in the Valley, has planned to contest all 87 seats in the state. 'We are contesting in all 87 constituencies with the spirit to win them. We are hopeful of winning 44 plus seats this time,' said state BJP leader Fayaz Ahmad Bhat. While many prominent names are doing the rounds as possible entrants to the BJP, the trend has started with Hina Bhat, daughter of former National Conference (NC) leader Mohammad Shafi Bhat, joining the party. Bhat, a doctor, is likely to challenge NC's Shamima Firdous in Amira Kadal. Amira Kadal has been Mohammad's strong hold, who as a NC leader had won the seat in 1996. He joined the Congress after he was denied a ticket by the NC in 2002; however, retained the seat in 2002 as well. On Saturday, BJP national general secretary JP Nadda and state general secretary Ashok Kumar Koul welcomed some of the new entrants to the party fold. Besides many new faces, former NC and Congress workers also joined the party. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's persona and the promise of 'Achhey din', according to Bhat, made her reject the offer of joining Congress for the Amira Kadal ticket last week. She is likely to contest for the BJP from the same seat. 'I am hopeful that the BJP will give me the ticket from this constituency,' said Hina. 'I know the consequences of joining BJP, but the decision came after carefully weighing the Modi government's approach towards the state. People who are against me now, will support me for the decision in future,' said the 34-year-old doctor. 'We know what the mainstream parties, which are headed by Muslims, have given to the state? It might be possible that a non-Muslim party rescue this state,' she added. Besides, the party is likely to consolidate its vote bank in the areas once dominated by Kashmiri Pandits. 'If Muslims in Srinagar don't vote Kashmiri Pandits in areas like Habba Kadal, Amira Kadal will matter,' said a party insider.