High Turnout May Put BJP's Kashmir Dream In Jeopardy

10 December 2014
The Hindustan Times
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi

Srinagar: As Jammu and Kashmir enters into the last two crucial phases of assembly elections, the BJP's chances of opening its account in the Valley appear dim. The party was banking on Kashmiri Pandit votes and the poll boycott to win some seats from the Valley and accomplish its ambitious Mission 44+ target. The J&K assembly has 87 seats. While Kashmir accounts for 46 seats, there are 37 seats in Jammu and four in Ladakh. Having been inconsequential in the Valley's fractious politics for all these years, the BJP made an impression of being a serious player for the first time, probably buoyed by the historic mandate it secured in the Lok Sabha elections. But its hopes appear to have been dashed by the high voter turnout in previous three phases in Kashmir. People have defied the separatists' call for poll boycott and voted in large numbers. Political analysts have attributed this to a predominant anti-BJP sentiment prevailing in the Kashmir valley. 'We have seen a high degree of polarisation in these elections,' said Prof Noor Ahmed Baba, Kashmir University. BJP leaders concede that their party stands a good chance in Jammu region only. 'For us, this election is just the beginning...It's like taking baby steps. Certainly, Jammu is our best bet and we have succeeded in making some inroads in Kashmir though we fought the elections seriously in all the three regions of the state,' J&K BJP spokesperson Khalid Jehangir told HT. BJP leaders suggest that they stand a chance in Habba Kadal only if the boycott call is strictly enforced by the separatists and the Kashmiri Pandits vote en bloc for their candidate Moti Koul. Habba Kadal and seven other constituencies from Srinagar go to polls in the fourth phase on December 14. Privately, Kashmiri BJP leaders say that the party's poll prospects in the Valley were apparently hurt by various factors such as the projection of a Hindu chief minister, talk of a chief minister from Jammu apart from the ambiguity on the Article 370. The view in the BJP is that the party should now go all out in the Jammu region and salvage the situation in the last two phases of elections.