As the stage is set for the first phase of the assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, much seems to be at stake for political parties — both regional as well as national.
The BJP which, till recently, had no takers in the Valley is challenging the established parties is the state like the National Conference and People’s Democratic Party. “If not the largest party, the BJP wants a role of a kingmaker, something that the Congress has had for last 12 years,” said Gul Wani, professor, political science department in Kashmir University.
In case one tries to draw a co-relation between the voting pattern of the Lok Sabha polls and assembly elections, the fight seems between the BJP and PDP. While the PDP was leading in 41 assembly segments in the valley, BJP was ahead in 24 in Jammu.
While the BJP is likely to repeat its performance of the Lok Sabha elections, it is counting on a few more seats from Pir Panjal and Chenab valley region of the winter capital.
A very ‘optimistic scenario’ might mean a few more in the Valley, if the party's arithmetic of low turnout seats and consolidation of migrant Pandit vote works in their favour.
Even a post poll alliance with former separatist Sajad Lone and other smaller players might not add up to the magic figure of 44. On the other hand, the PDP was leading in 41 out of 87 segments in the LS polls and may end up being the largest party.
Besides, for the first time the election is not about separatist politics versus mainstream or about number of people defying the separatist boycott or the numbers of people voting. This time, the issue is peace and development.
While for some voters, priority remains roads, health care, education and employment for others political issues like Article 370, autonomy or self-rule matter. Corruption and anti-incumbency also remain big factors in these elections.
Nearly 10.5 lakh voters would decide the fate of 123 candidates, including six ministers of the NC-Congress government, on Tuesday.
The ruling National Conference led by chief minister Omar Abdullah, BJP, Congress and main opposition PDP had their top leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and All India Congress Committee chief Sonia Gandhi, campaigning for respective parties.
Separatist leaders in the Valley have been giving election boycott calls ever since militant violence started in the early 1990s.
However this time, the anti-poll activities are on a low. The separatist camps are not out to enforce the boycott as most separatists, including JKLF’s Yasin Mallik, Shabir Shah and most activists of hardline Hurriyat are under arrest.
A day before voting, however, youth in Srinagar expressed displeasure, while a cavalcade of the main opposition People’s Democratic Party was stoned by groups of youth in Old City.
Eyewitnesses say chief minister Omar Abdullah was booed by people as he accompanied close aide Nasir Aslam Wani to file his nomination from Amira Kadal constituency in Srinagar.