The higher voting percentage in the first phase of the assembly polls have forced separatists and militant groups in Kashmir to reposition and re-strategise themselves with the entry of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Muslim-majority valleys of Kashmir, Chenab and Pir Panchal.
Once describing the act of voting as "betrayal with the sacrifices of martyrs," hardline Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani, in an interview to a local daily, parroted a new line.
"People voted to stop BJP's communal agenda. The BJP is hell bent to make inroads into Kashmir and spread their anti-Muslim policies," added the 85-year-old separatist.
Around 70% voters cast their franchise in the first phase in the state, including in pro-separatist constituencies. As voters defied separatist boycott call, Geelani uses new narrative for the unexpected voting.
"Other factor that led people to cast vote is that many youth booked under the Public Safety Act and in stone pelting cases want to get their names removed from the list," he said.
Moderate Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who called for poll boycott but stayed away from launching anti-poll campaign, described the recent voting as "vote against the government that failed to rehabilitate flood victims".
"It was vote for grievances not for aspirations...threat of the BJP coming to power also prompted voters. There is a fear psychosis among people against BJP's communal agenda," he said.
Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK)-based United Jehad supremo Syed Salahuddin on Friday asked separatists "to unanimously decide whether the polls held should be termed as an issue or a non-issue."
"For one group, it is an issue and for another it is a non-issue. It has created confusion in the minds of people," said Salahuddin in an interview to a local news agency from PoK's capital Muzaffarabad.
In an oblique hint at separatists to come up with joint strategy, Salahuddin said, "The militant leadership believes participation in the polls is betrayal with the sacrifices. But whatever decision is taken by the Hurriyat over the issue, we will abide by it."
"Polls no way are substitute to plebiscite," he added.
He also went ahead in justifying Muslims voting in the Chenab valley of the Jammu region. "People were compelled to vote so that they could keep communal forces at bay. People there had apprehensions that if they would not vote, the communal forces would dominate them."
The BJP's aggressive politics has forced separatists and militants to rethink. It also has become a centre piece of polls, helping in spiking the poll percentage in Kashmir valley to new levels.
Regional parties, National Conference and People's Democratic Party, are also banking on the anti-BJP rhetoric to swing voters in their favour.