The Complicated Math Of Mission 44+

11 November 2014
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Ishfaq Tantry

Srinagar: The Bharatiya Janata Party is trying hard to make its mark in the embattled Kashmir valley. Party leaders have paid several visits to the Valley over the past few months to explore the possibilities of forging an alliance with small political parties and fringe groups to accomplish its Mission 44+. The calculation is simple but the road to achieve it is complex. Banking on Modi wave, the BJP is hopeful of getting 24-25 seats in Jammu province, where the party won all parliamentary seats during the recently concluded General Election and also increased its vote tally. Besides, the BJP hopes to get 2-3 seats from the Ladakh region, wherefrom it won the lone parliamentary seat. From the Kashmir valley, where the BJP is yet to open its account, it is eyeing at least three seats - Habbakadal in Srinagar, Sopore in north Kashmir and Tral in south Kashmir. The party is banking upon a combination of factors like poll boycott and migrant votes. For the remaining seats, it is depending on smaller parties, political groupings and Independents to accomplish its mission 44 plus. The Tribune profiles political groups and individuals, who are in talks with the BJP or have been approached by BJP leaders for their support or a post-poll alliance. Current J&K Assembly Total seats: 87 National Conference: 28 Peoples Democratic Party: 21 Congress: 17 Bharatiya Janata Party: 11 Other parties: 10 People's Conference party head: Sajjad Gani Lone area of influence: Kupwara target: 5 seats. May get 1-2 seats This party was founded by Hurriyat leader Abdul Gani Lone in 1970s and has since hovered over the political mainstream as well as well as separatist horizon of Kashmir , with its substantial support base in the frontier Kupwara district of north Kashmir. After the assassination of Gani Lone by militants in May 2001, the People's Conference split. One faction, headed by Lone's elder son Bilal Gani Lone, is still part of the moderate Hurriyat faction headed by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, while the second faction is headed by Sajjad Gani Lone, who has since fought two parliamentary elections, but not won any. The People's Conference claims a substantial support base in at least five Assembly seats in Kupwara district of north Kashmir and has a fair chance of winning a couple of seats. It is precisely for these reasons that Sajjad has been approached by the BJP for soliciting his support. Democratic Nationalist Party: party head: Ghulam Hassan Mir; area of influence: Tangmarg; target: 5-6 seats. Set to win 1 After splitting from the Peoples Democratic Party, Ghulam Hassan Mir, who hails from the Tangmarg area of Baramulla district formed the Democratic Nationalist Party, in 2008. Mir, an influential and well-connected politician, won the Tangmarg Assembly seat for two consecutive terms solely on the basis of his performance and the goodwill he has generated among his supporters in the area. This time, too, he is poised to win from the Tangmarg constituency. Though Mir's DNP is part of the political alliance, Awami Muttahida Mahaz (AMM), his party is likely to field five-six candidates during the five-phase Assembly elections beginning from November 25. Acknowledging his meeting with BJP leaders, Mir, however refused to divulge the details of the conversation he had with them. Awami Ittehad Party: party head: Engineer Rashid; area of influence: Langate in Kupwara, Bandipora; target: 10 seats. Set to get one. This party was launched in 2010 and is being headed by Independent MLA from Langate Engineer Abdul Rashid. The party has its support base in Langate, wherefrom Rashid is contesting the polls for the second time. Besides, the party has fielded its candidate from the Bandipore constituency and is also planning to field its candidates from Handwara in north Kashmir, Amira Kadal and Dalgate in Srinagar and Wachi from Pulwama. Confirming his meeting with the BJP and RSS leaders, Rashid said that as a politician he could meet anybody. He, however, said his party would support any political party which facilitated the Kashmir resolution. 'We may think of supporting anybody as we are the sufferers and we are the victims,' he said while adding that his party would support whoever helped get Kashmir out of the present quagmire. Peoples Democratic Front: party head: Hakim Yasin; area of influence: Khansahab, Budgam, Beerwah; target: 3 seats. Set to get 1. The party was formed in 2008 and Hakim Yasin is its face in Kashmir. The party has substantial support base in the Khansahab constituency in Budgam, wherefrom Yasin has won two consecutive terms. The PDF, which is also part of the political alliance Awami Muttahida Mahaz (referred to as Third Front), claims some support base in Beerwah and Budgam constituencies. Confirming his meeting with BJP leaders, Yasin told The Tribune that his party or the AMM would support any party in J&K which accepted its demands or key points, including safeguarding Article 370, Indus water treaty and initiating stalled Indo-Pak talks to resolve the Kashmir issue. 'They (BJP) leaders met us. We placed our points before them and told them that if their party supported the points, we have no hesitation in having an alliance after the polls,' Yasin said, adding that the AMM was going to field its candidates from at least 40 constituencies, including those from the Jammu region. The BJP strategy? Jammu: From the Jammu region, The BJP hopes to get 25 to 25 seats; Ladakh: Aims to win 3 seats; Kashmir: Party plans to open account with 3 seats on its own; Post-poll alliance: For the remaining seats, BJP wants to forge an alliance with smaller groups in Kashmir. Parties approached by BJP: People's Conference, political groups part of Awami Muttahida Mahaz. Other groups which may tilt balance Apart from these small parties, there are numerous political groupings which have emerged in the political arena of Kashmir ever since the polls were announced. They have the potential to alter the balance in some constituencies if not the power to win the seats. These include the Kashmir Development Front, headed by former director, Information, Farooq Renzu. Renzu is considered close to religious groups in Kashmir such as Karwani-e-Islamia and Anjuman-e-Tableeg-ul-Islam. Another group which has been approached by the BJP is Tehreek-e-Haq, headed by Shahzad Asim, a former PDP leader, who left the party and floated his own after being denied ticket by the PDP from Sopore. Shahzad said he was contesting from Sopore and planned to field candidates from other parties too.