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Within two months, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already visited Jammu and Kashmir twice, reflecting the BJP’s push to form a majority government in Jammu and Kashmir in the upcoming assembly polls scheduled later this year.
The BJP has renewed its focus on Ladakh, which may offer only four assembly seats — Kargil, Zanskar, Leh and Nubra — but may be pivotal to form the government given the fragmentation in the state.
At present, the Ladakh parliamentary seat is represented by BJP’s Thupstan Chhewang who won by a thin margin of 34 votes in the recently concluded Lok Sabha polls, defeating strong candidates from two influential Muslim institutions — National Conference-backed Islamia School and Congress-backed Imam Khomeini Memorial Trust.
Can Modi sway the Muslim voters in religious conservative Kargil?
“Yes. The fact that Modi became PM with such a decisive margin of victory shows that he represents the aspirations of Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus equally,” said Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, a senior BJP leader.
Looking at BJP’s Kargil rally, the BJP seems to be playing the development card and avoiding divisive politics in the state. The BJP has emerged stronger in the Jammu region, where it won two parliamentary seats.
Of the 36 assembly seats in Jammu, BJP is leading with 28 seats. Out the 87 assembly seats in the state, a party needs 44 to form a majority government.
The BJP looks eager to form a government in the Muslim majority state and has avoided aggressive Hindutva-based agenda here. It is trying to make inroads in the Kashmir valley by cobbling together a coalition of independent candidates.
“The BJP wants development. Leaders from the National Conference and the Congress have fooled people and extended false promises,” BJP’s Ladakh vice-president, Muhammad Subhan Jafri.
However, religious figures discount that the party’s pro-development plank alone can translate into votes.
“It is too early to say if the Muslim religious institutions will side with Modi or not. The BJP’s push for development may not convert into votes,” said Agha Syed Jamal, president of the influential Islamia School. “Besides, the revocation of Article 370 will end whatever has remained of Kargil. Nothing will be there.”
Most councilors of the Kargil Hill Development Council, including its head Asghar Karbalia of the Imam Khomieni Memorial Trust, were conspicuous in their absence in the PM’s function despite receiving an invite.