Jammu and Kashmir is not just another state for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The special status constitutionally accorded to the state, which some believe breeds separatism and also seen as another Nehruvian legacy, is being contested and negated by the party.
The core issue the BJP extrapolated and politically exploited to gain power at the Centre, making it a pan-India party. In the state, the party which was earlier confined to just the Jammu city has grown in strength, bagging 11 seats in the last assembly elections.
To rule the state and if it ever does so, the party has to emerge as a pan-state party, which is a formidable test for its right-wing brand of politics.
Jammu and Kashmir is the only Muslim majority state with Hindus mainly confined to the Jammu region.
The BJP state unit doesn't have the leaders who can entice voters from all across the state. It's Prime Minister Narendra Modi alone can put the party in power in the state capital.
The political equations on the ground are visibly in its favour. In the Jammu region, especially in the Hindu dominant areas, the party has been facing stiff competition from the Congress, which has also been playing soft right-wing and pro-Jammu politics to corner the BJP.
However, the BJP outdoes the Congress when there was communal polarisation in 2008 elections.
Jammu and Kashmir is not a homogenous state and to gain accessibility in all three regions, only communal polarisation alone won't do it much favour. The party after realising this has been tweaking its politics from time to time.
It has given mandate to 11 Muslim candidates, though this figure is less than the last elections. However, it is not contesting all the seats from the Valley.
Even though J&K is a Muslim majority state, within a section of the Muslim community in the Jammu region and along the LoC in the Kashmir region,there is a sense that they are not being equally treated by the Kashmiri-speaking Muslims.
The party is exploiting this faultlines and its success lies in it, notably on 12 seats in the Jammu region, where the Muslim votes are crucial for its success.
On four seats of the Ladakh region, divided equally between the Buddhists and the Shias, the party has nurtured both the communities and it hopes to do well riding on the brand Modi in Leh and Kargil.
It is the Kashmir Valley having 46 seats, where the party has to do well. It's working on different permutations and combinations, from wooing leaders with separatists tendencies to leaving space for others. Modi as PM has stressed on an inclusive development of all regions.
But in the Kashmir region where narrative of separatism outpaces inclusivism, changing the political goalpost will be a real test for the PM. The party hopes to make its presence felt here. It may be banking on division or poll boycott to script success story here.
Modi for sure is not viewed from the lens of 2002 Gujarat riots now, but he has also not donned the Muslim skullcap, which dots the Kashmir region.