Kashmir Churning in Indian balloting

Kashmir Magazine

Shafqat Bukhari

With majority of exit polls showing popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi receding in the aftermath of the Balakote air strikes across the line of control (LoC) in Pak Administered Kashmir (PaK) and Donald Trump led US administration giving a clean chit to Pakistan on use of F-16 fighter jets in retaliatory action against India, the big poll battle in India may certainly throw up surprises on May 23 this year when election results will be announced all over India but the issue of concern is the anxiety and nervousness the toxic campaigning of BJP is generating in Jammu & Kashmir state . As Prime Minister Modi’s receding popularity and increasing acceptability of Rahul Gandhi as Congress party’s Prime Ministerial candidate is giving clear indications of a fractured mandate in the 2019 parliamentary elections in India, the BJP top brass out of brute frustration is continuing vicious campaigning against article 370 guaranteeing special status to Jammu & Kashmir state and article 35-A guaranteeing property and state subject right to the people of Jammu & Kashmir. A likely fractured verdict in the parliamentary polls would by all probabilities set the stage for the return of coalition politics at the centre which would immediately cast shadows on the mainstream politics in Jammu and Kashmir shaken by dozens of controversial administrative decisions and unwanted constitutional amendments by governor Satya Pal Malik. Worry for the BJP is that National Conference and Congress party have already entered into a pre-poll alliance for two Jammu seats and one valley constituency for parliamentary elections.

Since most of the areas in the Baramulla parliamentary constituency, comprising 15 assembly segments are falling along the LoC, so obviously the turn outs in three border districts of North Kashmir could be higher than Srinagar and Anantnag parliamentary constituencies and the higher turn out by all probabilities would give National Conference contestant an edge over others who bank upon the floating vote grabbed by PDP in 2015 parliamentary and assembly elections and now likely to be shared by Raja Aijaz Ali of Peoples Conference , Qayoom Wani of PDP and Er Rasheed of Awami Itehad party. National Conference might also regain its control in most of the North Kashmir’s assembly segments which had fallen into the kitty of PDP in 2014 assembly elections. As the law and order scenario and the interest of the electorate in the parliamentary elections is totally different in Srinagar and Anantnag lok sabha constituencies than the Baramulla parliamentary elections, the turn outs in both Srinagar and Anantnag parliamentary constituencies won’t be as much encouraging for either the government or the contesting mainstream parties as it would be in three North Kashmir districts. As the situation on ground is giving indication that while National Conference President Farooq Abdullah would certainly have a cake walk in his fight for Srinagar parliamentary constituency, the PDP President Mehbooba Mufti would find herself on a sticky wicket in Anantnag parliamentary constituency keeping in view the huge challenges Justice (Retd.) Hasnain Masoodi of National Conference and Gh Ahmed Mir of the Congress party are throwing to Mehbooba. The outcome of the three parliamentary constituencies of Kashmir valley could prove detrimental for new political formations after the announcement of the parliamentary election results at the fag end of May this year.

Keeping in view the commitment of the Congress party to AFSPA revocation in Jammu & Kashmir in its election manisfesto and the promise of BJP to scrap article 370 and Article 35-A in its poll manifesto, the ideological balancing between National Conference and Congress for assembly polls is likely to push PDP to corner in Kashmir valley and isolate BJP in Jammu region. Though there is very less possibility of pre-poll alliance between National Conference and Congress for assembly elections keeping in view the tendencies of both the parties to stake claims for more seats in a bid for any seat sharing arrangement but all depends on the outcome of the pre-poll alliances between the two party on three Lok Sabha seats, two in Jammu region an one in Kashmir valley.

As the bigger challenge for any pre-poll alliance between National Conference and the Congress party is the transfer of votes for their common candidates in the assembly elections, both National Conference and Congress might prefer to contest assembly elections on their own to gain maximum and work out ideas about post poll alliance for government formation after the announcement of the assembly election results . A common meeting ground between a new dispensation at the centre and a new government in Jammu and Kashmir over political issues particularly the legal challenge to article 35 A thrown up by the hard core affiliates of BJP in the supreme court of the country and the revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) could bring down the intensity of street protests and encounters between the militants and the government forces in Jammu & Kashmir.

Presently annoyed by the deferment of the assembly polls the mainstream parties in Jammu and Kashmir are eagerly waiting for the announcement for assembly elections which they now expect any time after the parliamentary elections conclude on May 23. Keeping in view the launch of less than half a dozen new parties in both Kashmir and Jammu divisions of the state the coalition politics has to come to stay in Jammu & Kashmir also. Knowing that dismal performance of the PDP and BJP in running a coalition government for more than three years has put National Conference and Congress party on a revival mode in the state, the Modi government is delaying the process for restoration of popular rule in the state under the garb of worsening security scenario in the state but after the parliamentary election the assembly elections have to be inevitably announced by the election commission. Despite knowing that sooner or later the assembly elections have to be conducted and a popular government has to take over the reigns of power in the state, the toxic election campaign of BJP top brass generating fears of constitutional and institutional encroachment in Jammu & Kashmir is Modi government’s desperate attempt to use Kashmir as a trump card for settling scores over the opposition in India’s main land electoral politics in the ongoing parliamentary elections. Total focus of BJP’s toxic election campaigning on the special status of Jammu & Kashmir is generating a feeling of anxiety and nervousness among the people in all the three regions of the state.