When the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) won 16 seats in the last assembly elections, many dismissed it as a one-poll wonder. With the party going five up on its 2002 tally this time, it seems the PDP is here to stay.
It won 21 of the 87 Jammu and Kashmir assembly seats, the results for which were declared on Sunday. The party is being seen as an emerging alternative to the National Conference (NC), which for decades remained the voice of Kashmiris.
For its pro-Kashmir stance, the NC was also seen as “representative of Kashmir’s sub-nationalism”. But, over the last few years, it’s been facing charges of compromising its agenda. The 1999 tie-up with the BJP was seen as a big departure from its stated political position.
Its performance when in power didn’t help either. “Rampant corruption, incessant rights violations and arrogance of its leaders created space for another party,” Mohammad Ishaq Wani, a college teacher, said. “The PDP filled the vacuum.”
The vote was for good governance, said Shoukat Kar, a political activist and commentator. “Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s three-year rule was ideal with respect to development and security,” he said.
The PDP and Congress formed the government after the 2002 elections. The two decided to rotate the chief minister’s post and Sayeed had first shot at it. The partners, however, developed differences and the government didn’t last full term. “The era of emotional slogans is over; the party that’ll deliver will survive,” said Dr Tariq Ahmad Bhat.
In the run-up to the polls, a number of voters said they were supporting the PDP for “providing a secure and fear-free atmosphere”.
A former militant, Riyaz Ahmad Khan, said he gave up arms in 1995 but was hounded by counter-insurgents. “I never slept in my house, not until Sayeed disbanded the Task Force,” said Khan, who lives in Kulgam in Anantnag district.