In the 2014 assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, the BJP could not poll a total of 50,000 votes in the Valley and 33 out of its 34 candidates lost their security deposits. But that was six months ago. The party now claims to have enrolled around 3.20 lakh members from the Muslim-majority Kashmir alone.
Altaf Thakur, the BJP’s media in-charge for Kashmir and a member of the membership monitoring committee, told HT over phone that 70% of the new members enrolled between February 28 and April 30 are youth and a majority of them are girls. “In 2005, there were just four of us and we kept the BJP flag flying in Kashmir. Membership reached 12,000 in 2008. Now we have over 3.20 lakh members,” he said. “This shows that people of Kashmir are finally accepting BJP as an alternative.”
The official figures given by the BJP for the entire state stands at 5,87,747 members till April 30 this year and the verification is still on. The party also claims to have enrolled 10.42 crore members across the country from November 1, 2014 to April 30, 2015, smashing the Chinese Communist Party’s world record of a membership of 6.48 crore.
Thakur attributed the rise in enrolment to PM Narendra Modi’s “appeal and popularity” and the fact that the BJP was in power in the Valley for the first time ever. “No doubt, that has also contributed significantly in augmenting our membership.”
The Congress questioned these claims but blamed J-K chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for giving the BJP a foothold in Kashmir. “Mufti had fought the elections on an anti-BJP plank. Now, the credit for the rise of the BJP and the RSS in Kashmir solely goes to him,” Congress leader Abdul Ghani Vakil said.
The National Conference (NC) dismissed the BJP’s 3-lakh figure as a fairy tale. “But there is a concerted effort by PDP to impose BJP on Kashmir. BJP has no acceptability among people for their communal and regional politics which they are pursuing vigorously using the coalition government to further their agenda,” NC leader Devender Singh Rana said. When contacted, PDP’s Nizamuddin Bhat refused to comment on the BJP’s claim.