The 15-year-old People’s Democratic Party (PDP), led by former Congress leader and union home minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, is riding high on numbers, coalition options and the anti-incumbency factor running against coalition partners, National Conference (NC) and Congress.
The party, which had failed to cobble a coalition with the Congress in the 2008 polls despite bettering its seat share compared to the 2002 polls, is entering into the poll fray with high spirits this time.
The PDP is contesting the upcoming assembly polls with highest tally in the state in the Lok Sabha polls, wherein the party won all the three parliamentary seats from Kashmir Valley.
According to the figures, the PDP was able to secure lead in 41 of the total 87 assembly segments in Jammu and Kashmir during the May-June Lok Sabha polls.
Party registered highest voter share in ls polls
If one goes by the vote share and domination of assembly constituencies during the Lok Sabha polls, the party can emerge with highest number of seats, if not with the magical figure of 44.
For the first time, the party registered significant vote share of around 60,000 votes from the Muslim belts in Jammu region, particularly in Rajouri and Poonch districts.
Whether those votes can earn them assembly seats still remains to be seen but this fact, for sure, has infused a new life into the party to look for new prospects in the Jammu region, critical for it to form a majority government.
The party has tried to rope in credible faces like Yash Pal Sharma from Jammu region. In fact, PDP patron Sayeed has been spending more time in Jammu than Kashmir in the last six years to shun the party image of being a Kashmir-centric political party.
The party continues to retain its strong position in south Kashmir, where it had won 12 of the 16 assembly seats. So the party is in to face anti-incumbency factor too but rising anger against the NC-Congress over recent floods and its devastation may help the party to sail easily.
While PDP patron Sayeed’s hometown Bijbehara in south Kashmir may repose faith in him again, his daughter Mehbooba Mufti’s assembly constituency of Wachi will witness a tough fight with NC’s Showkat Hussain Ganai acceptance gaining ground.
The party has decided not to field sitting MLAs from several constituencies in south Kashmir, triggering a negative upheaval and discordant notes within the party. Two big names -- former J&K Bank chairman Haseeb Drabu and influential advocate Muhammad Yusuf Bhat -- will be fresh faces to contest from key constituencies of Shopian and Rajpora.
The decision has fuelled a rebellion within the ranks but the party seems confident to have these two new faces sailing without hindrance.
Trying to gain ground in border areas
In north Kashmir, the party has worked harder to gain ground in border areas of Tanghdar and Karnah. Even the militant-infested Lolab constituency showed numbers favouring the party.
However, the PDP faces a very tough fight from firebrand Awami Ittehad Party (AIP) chief Engineer Rashid in Langate, Peoples Conference and NC in Handwara, Congress from Uri, NC in Kupwara and BJP in boycott-prone Sopore. Kreeri will be a litmus test for the sitting MLA Basharat Bukhari. In Gulmarg, the PDP is coming up with a big push to corner Democratic Party Nationalist Ghulam Hassan Mir, as Mir’s image has been dented by his controversy surrounding the army funding.
Similarly, the Pattan constituency may see Shia voters favouring the party but Sonawari and Bandipora will be no cakewalk.
In Ganderbal, the party is trying to cash in on anti-incumbency factor of the NC, while it banks on Kashmiri-speaking voters in Kangan assembly segment.
The party may find it difficult to win NC bastion Gurez or any of four seats in Ladakh region, though it has been able to win over two credible faces for Nobra and Kargil constituencies this time.
In Budgam district’s five seats, the PDP continues to have upper hand in two segments.
However, the key to rule Jammu and Kashmir for the party remains in its political capital Srinagar, which elects eight MLAs. They five constituencies have always opted for NC candidates in the past.
The party was able to dominate in at least five segments in the Lok Sabha polls and are building on that.
Two big names Altaf Bukhari, a business tycoon, and Khursheed Alam, former employees’ union head, remains the party’s big bets in Srinagar.
The party has dropped broad hints of forging post-poll alliances with any national party. It has kept the BJP and the Congress at equidistance.
It has tried to keep separatists in good books too by raking up Kashmir issue and its resolution.
The party’s tie-up with the influential socio-religious group Jamaat-e-Islami seems a distant dream this time.
Strengths: A thinking party that believes in experimenting and taking bold political steps. Has already mixed separatism and mainstream politics and shrunk the separatist space by raking up Kashmir issue and its resolution repeatedly.
Weaknesses: Lack of pre-poll alliances with any major political force like the BJP or the Congress.
Vote share in 2008 assembly elections 20.05%
Vote share in 2014 Lok Sabha polls 46.35%