A reluctant National Conference (NC) will head to the five-phase assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir with the odds heavily stacked against it in the face of growing anti-incumbency.
The Election Commission on Saturday announced the dates for the assembly polls starting November 25 despite chief minister Omar Abdullah’s plea for deferment in view of the devastation caused by the recent floods.
On the other hand, the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is hoping to wrest power riding on people’s resentment and anger against the NC government.
But the party which is expecting a windfall is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), despite its apparent lack of a support base in the valley.
In the Lok Sabha elections earlier this year, the PDP and the BJP had trounced the NC and Congress, winning three Lok Sabha seats each.
Though the BJP’s main vote bank is in Hindu-dominated Jammu (37 seats) and Buddhist-majority Ladakh (4 seats), the party must make serious inroads in the valley to achieve its mission of winning 44 seats to form a government on its own. Kashmir valley has 46 seats.
With the devastation and the administration’s initial lethargy still fresh in the minds of the people in Kashmir – especially Srinagar – it would take a miracle for the NC to win back the people’s confidence for another term.
Omar Abdullah, for one, is not having any illusions.
A few days ago, he told HT candidly, "The roads we build are mud, the bridges have been washed away. All the work done by the government in the last six years is gone".
Add to that, the NC also has to take into account killings of youth by security forces, unemployment and the sentimental issue of hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru.
Arguably, Omar Abdullah will fight his toughest electoral battle this winter.
Jammu and Kashmir elections, 2014
Total seats: 87 (General 80, reserved 7)
Kashmir division: 46
Jammu region: 37
Revised figures for 2014: Total electorate: 72.2 lakh
(Men 37.9 lakh and women 34.3 lakh)
Previous poll was held in 2008 (J&K assembly term is for six years)
Total voters: 64.6 lakh