The major players in the ongoing Jammu and Kashmir assembly elections are the PDP and the BJP. In the last election, the PDP won 21 seats and the BJP got 11, but this time the PDP is likely to emerge as the single-largest party and the BJP may get around 24 seats.
The situation on the ground, however, shows that whichever party tops the list on December 23, the day of the results, will have to seek support of Independents, and smaller parties could also play a decisive role in the final outcome. Other possible situations could be a PDP-Congress coalition or the NC could join hands with the BJP to stay in power, but that is unlikely.
In fact, the results could surprise us also. The BJP is attracting smaller parties and Independents — and banking on Sajjad Lone’s People’s Conference (PC). The success of the PC will boost the BJP and its failure means a major blow to Lone’s career.
The BJP has gained space, visibly. Tho-ugh it can be hard for the BJP to convert it into votes, it is not impossible. Perhaps, there will be rise of the BJP in Jammu but it is difficult for the same to happen in Kashmir. The reason being that both the NC and the PDP’s votebank is unlikely to change. The voters who are up against the NC-Congress government are saying that they need change of guard. The BJP has also been only talking about development, mostly, and less on Article 370.
Then what gives the BJP an edge? It is the lack of people’s support to the NC and the Congress. However, the PDP will gain more than the BJP.
The PDP on the other hand has been increasing its votebank by highlighting how the NC-Congress government failed to address issues in its six-year rule. This has increased the PDP’s prominence in both rural and urban areas and even pulled a senior leader from the NC, whose father was a close aide of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, Omar Abdullah’s grandfather.
The projected numbers show no party will get a majority. The NC and the Congress have been pitching campaign against each other that leaves the Congress as a backup for the PDP.
Any party that fights the elections in the state, a disputed region, has to talk about its solution, development, and governance — all together. People in the region only vote for their daily issues that they think will be addressed by their leader, and less for solving the Kashmir issue. Both the sides of the political leadership — whether mainstream or separatists — have failed to provide anything concrete to the people. The pile-up of hollow promises made to people so far has raised curtains from politicians’ ability of delivering justice.
In this vacuum, created by political chaos and bad governance, any party that promises to solve people’s local issues will take the power. It is an election for governance but the political situation of the region will not change, whether it is the BJP, the NC, the Congress or the PDP in power. The recent four attacks in 12 hours killing 21 people explain the larger picture of the region.
Fahad Shah is a journalist and editor of The Kashmir Walla magazine
The views expressed by the author are personal