The BJP emerged as a major political force in Jammu and Kashmir as the assembly poll results were declared on Sunday, winning 11 of the 87 seats.
The party had only one seat in the outgoing assembly. Its best ever performance had been in the 1996 polls, when it bagged eight seats.
All 11 seats were obtained out of the Jammu region’s tally of 37, since it has no presence in the Valley. It won 7 seats in Jammu, three in Kathua and one in Reasi district.
For a party that lost the elections in Rajasthan and Delhi earlier this month, the Jammu results have come as a great consolation.
“We had hoped for a double digit figure and managed it,” said Ramesh Arora, party spokesman. “It’ll usher in a new era of nationalism defeating separatism.”
Ten of the 11 seats were wrested from the Congress, while one seat was taken from the National Conference. In Jammu West, BJP’s Chaman Lal Gupta, former minister in the NDA government, proved a giant killer, upsetting the Congress’s Mangat Ram Sharma, former deputy chief minister.
The BJP rode the crest of a wave of resentment against the previous Congress-PDP coalition, which was perceived by Jammu dwellers as being biased in favour of the Kashmir valley in the protracted dispute earlier this year over the allotment of land to the Sri Amarnath Shrine Board. Many of its local leaders played key roles in the land related agitation.
However, BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley, who handled the party’s Jammu agitation, insisted that the Amarnath issue was not the sole factor behind the BJP’s win. “The BJP is seen as representing the aspirations of the people of Jammu, who have suffered years of discrimination,” he said.
“The credit goes to our cadres and the people of Jammu,” said Rajnath Singh, BJP president. He ruled out any attempt by the party to be part of the government. “We’ll be a constructive and nationalist opposition, filling a space which has been vacant since Independence,” he said.
Huge BJP processions dotted the streets of Jammu, with the war cry of the agitation Bam bam bhole resounding everywhere.