The Lok Sabha elections are yet to generate enough heat as the winter chill is yet to wear off in Jammu and Kashmir. And the assembly elections slated for October appear too far away.
But the silence could be misleading, since the Valley has been seething with anger. Reason: The army’s decision to close the Pathribal encounter case — security forces allegedly killed five villagers on March 25, 2000, claiming that they were foreign militants.
Coming barely a year after the execution of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, the decision, added to the anti-incumbency wave against the six-year rule of the National Conference, can upset a lot many calculations in the 2014 polls.
For now, what is keeping the anger in check is the lack of firm alliances. In 2009, the NC and the Congress contested the elections separately and then joined hands.
This time too, the two parties may tread the beaten track, even though the past five years have been marked by a deep rift. The only thing that may push the two parties together before the elections is Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP’s reported closeness to the BJP.
In his Lalkar rally on December 1 in Jammu, BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi took on both NC and the Congress. But he treaded softly where the PDP was concerned. In fact, he avoided mentioning the party at all.
It could have been a matter of customary caution. The traditionally Hindu bastion voted for the Congress last time, but now, exit polls have predicted a BJP win. And the party, which is hoping to win in both Jammu and Udhampur, will try not to disturb the atmosphere.
But while Jammu appears to have been bagged by the BJP even before the polls, the fate of the four remaining seats in the state will depend on issues far beyond the Rahul-Modi war.
With assembly polls slated for October, local issues — development, jobs, corruption and the Armed Forces’ Special Powers Act (AFSPA) — have been top-of-the-mind for the electorate. The PDP is riding high on anti-incumbency — even exit polls predict the NC will retain only the prestigious Srinagar seat, which has been the turf of the Abdullah family.
Over-riding the summer storm of 2010 — the violent street protests over the alleged fake encounter at Sona Pindi — the NC government managed to hold the panchayat polls next year and undertake several administrative reforms.
But the advantage was frittered away by the execution of Guru in 2013. Though the decision was taken by the Congress-led UPA government, the PDP accused the Omar Abdullah government of being in the know. The muck stuck.
Having carved out a niche, the PDP let loose a flood of criticism, questioning every decision of the government — including the recent announcement of the creation of 659 administrative units. Mufti’s party called it “a poll game by alliance partners”.
Senior NC leaders believe an alliance is the only way to contain the PDP. The party is hoping to contest all three seats in Kashmir and is depending on the Congress to take on the BJP in Jammu.
But the state Congress leadership is not keen on playing the game. Already, it has shortlisted candidates for all six assembly constituencies and sent the list to the high command. The idea is to “build pressure on NC to seek at least one seat in the Valley”, said a party leader.
But both parties can ill afford a split at this juncture. As things stand, it will take a miracle for the coalition to repeat the feat of 2009.