BJP goes for big push in J-K ahead of polls

  • Aurangzeb Naqshbandi, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Aug 20, 2014 00:25 IST

Confident of a good show in the Jammu region, the BJP has shifted its election focus to the Kashmir valley with the party identifying four to five seats where migrant Kashmiri Pandit voters hold the key.

Jammu and Kashmir BJP sources said the party has already begun efforts in the Habba Kadal, Amira Kadal, Sopore, Budgam, Karnah and Tral constituencies to achieve the target of 44-plus seats in the 87-member assembly set by BJP chief Amit Shah.

Buoyed by its creditable show in the Lok Sabha polls where the party picked up three of the state’s six seats, the BJP is hopeful that the “social engineering formula” employed by Shah will pay rich dividends in the J&K assembly elections as well.

The party, in recent days, has raised the pitch in and outside Parliament over the return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley with an eye on the migrant voters.

Soon after the NDA came to power at the Centre, the government pushed through a revised rehabilitation package for the Kashmiri Pandits, according to which a family willing to return to the Valley will get Rs 20 lakh for reconstruction of residences either destroyed or burnt down during militancy.

The package also includes provision of security and jobs for those returning to their homes.

Sources say BJP strategists have drawn up an elaborate plan to make the party’s presence felt in these four to five crucial seats. There are more than 27,000 Kashmiri Pandit voters in Habba Kadal and about 16,000 in Amira Kadal. Tral has a substantial number of Sikh voters.

BJP leaders say that in case an election boycott call by separatists — customary in the Valley — leads to low polling, the Kashmiri Pandit votes may give the party the edge in a few constituencies.

The state BJP camp feels, sources say, that if the party manages to win at least one to two seats in the Valley it will send a message not only to domestic critics but the international community as well. So far, the party has never won a seat in any election from Kashmir.

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