It was not quite Mission 44+ in the end, but nothing can take away from the BJP’s impressive showing in Jammu and Kashmir. By picking up so many seats, it has firmly signalled that it will be a major player in the state. But with the PDP emerging as the single-largest party, much depends who throws in whose lot with whom to form the government. As of now, it seems that the PDP and the BJP are not entirely averse to going along together. The surprise seems to be the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference, which has not done as badly as expected given its poor governance track record, which was exacerbated by its inability to handle the catastrophic floods this year. The outgoing chief minister Omar Abdullah has surprised observers by suggesting that he could support the PDP if its chief Mufti Mohammad Sayeed “picks up the phone” and call him. The Congress has notched up only 12 seats but may find itself in the scheme of things if the PDP prefers a secular option to protect its base in Kashmir. Credit has to go to the energetic campaigning by the BJP for its great showing in Jammu, led by its star campaigners like Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah. That it has not done well in Kashmir or Ladakh should compel the BJP to wonder why it was not able to make similar inroads in those areas as it did in Jammu.
The victory in Jammu also brings the Kashmiri Pandits back into the reckoning in the state’s politics. Whichever alliance is formed, there has been a paradigm shift in the politics of the state. The first thing we must celebrate is the great enthusiasm with which voters came out in droves to exercise their franchise. The second trend seems to be that they have opted squarely for the governance and development that all the parties offered. The challenge for the combination which assumes power will be to ensure that this mandate is not frittered away as was done by the previous government. It is a sign of the disenchantment with the government that Mr Abdullah himself lost from one of the seats he contested.
With this and the triumph in Jharkhand, the BJP continues its winning streak. The Congress for its part seems to have told the PDP that it has to choose between the BJP or itself, though in reality it is not in any position to extend ultimatums. The test now will be of which leaderships are compatible. With the BJP in such a good position, it also becomes incumbent on the Centre to push the development agenda in the state.