Phase 5 polls crucial for BJP's 'Mission 44+'

  • Tarun Upadhyay, Hindustan Times, Jammu
  • Updated: Dec 17, 2014 20:57 IST

The Bharatiya Janata Party's ambitious 'Mission 44+' to form its first ever government in Jammu and Kashmir hinges on its performance in the 20 seats going to the polls on December 20, in the final of the five-phase assembly elections.

The BJP won 10 out of the 20 seats in the 2008 assembly elections - the saffron party's highest every tally.

The assembly segments going to polls on Saturday fall in the Jammu, Kathua and Rajouri districts. Eighteen seats in these districts are Hindu-majority segments upon which the BJP is banking the most.

The significance of these 20 seats for the BJP can be gauged from the Prime Minister's speech during a rally in Jammu on Tuesday. Modi invoked the Jammu versus Kashmir card and said "I appeal to the self-respect of Jammu that they shouldn't allow our opponents to open an account here."

Modi's statement triggered a scathing attack by opponents who called him "negative", but observers said it reflected the saffron party's desperation to come to power in the state.

But it won't be easy. The BJP faces stiff competition from the Congress. The BJP, which has traditionally been playing the Jammu card, went soft on the issue of abrogation of the Article 370 - which grants special status to the state - and also the issue of 'discrimination' with the Jammu region this elections as the party attempts to make an imprint in the Muslim-majority Kashmir region.

The BJP's softening up on issues about which it was vocal before has given leverage to the Congress to crack a whip at the saffron party.

"BJP has emotionally blackmailed the Jammu people. It hearts beats more for the separatists Syed Ali Shah Geelani than for the Jammu," said Congress minister Sham Lal Sharma, who has advocated for a Hindu CM for the state.

Moreover, the Congress, after losing the Lok Sabha elections badly, tried to recover and promised to create separate regional councils for both Jammu and Kashmir Valley, something that is being seen as an attempt to consolidate its base in the Jammu.

Out of the 20 seats going to polls the BJP had earlier won three seats by a margin of 1:3 and lost as many seats in a similar manner. For the BJP, even a slight drop in votes this time could mar the saffron party's dream.

Political observers believe that on Saturday it will be a gamble for the party as the result could go either way. The BJP is banking solely on the Modi wave now. It's the saffron party's best bet and it has helped it in creating a buzz that Mission 44+ is achievable.

But these are state elections. " BJP can never ever form a government in J&K. It can play a role of NGO here. People realise it and also the fact that only Congress can give real political empowerment to the Jammu," said Sham Lal Sharma. Congress has been in coalition government since 2002 and most of its ministers were from Jammu.

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