The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is hoping to ride the Narendra Modi wave to make inroads into Jammu & Kashmir as the state goes to the polls on Tuesday, but the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) could emerge as the biggest gainer, say analysts.
The BJP is looking to tap into the people’s anger over the slow rehabilitation of flood-hit Kashmiris as it seeks to expand its support base to the Muslim-majority Valley, where it has no presence, and increase its base in the Hindu-dominated Jammu region.
Analysts say the party may not achieve its aim of winning a majority of 44 in the 87-member assembly but could emerge as a key player with the ruling National Conference (NC) facing the people’s ire after the state’s worst flooding in a century. It can also benefit from the falling out between the NC and Congress, after being in government together for six years.
“If not the largest party, the BJP wants the role of a kingmaker, something the Congress has held for the past 12 years,” said Kashmir University political science professor Gul Wani.
Based on their performances in the general election, the BJP and the PDP are likely to be the two main players in the assembly poll. The BJP, which was leading in 24 assembly segments in Jammu in the general election, is counting on getting a few more from the Pir Panjal and Chinad valley regions this time.
However, analysts say even if the party’s calculation of low voter turnouts and consolidation of migrant Pandit votes works in its favour, it may get a few more seats, but will still fall short of a majority,
In such a scenario, the PDP, which led in 41 assembly segments in the Kashmir Valley in the April-May elections, could emerge as the single-largest party in the assembly.
For the first time in the state, the election is not about separatist-versus-mainstream politics, but about peace and development.
While rural voters are concerned about roads, healthcare, education and employment, urban voters care more about political issues like Article 370, autonomy or the question of self-rule.
Leaders of all the parties, including Modi and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, have gone all out to woo voters, with the BJP leader raking up the issue of dynastic politics — aimed at both the NC and PDP, which are family-ruled parties — and corruption.
NC leader Omar Abdullah hit out at a rally on Saturday, saying no development could ever be complete without solving the Kashmir issue first.
However, the chief minister faces an uphill battle as public anger is directed at his party. He was even booed when he went with a close aide who was filing his nomination from a constituency in Srinagar.