December 28, 2014

MAIDAN-e-JUNG - Part V

KEY TAKEAWAYS

(5) Ballot over Bullet: In spite of the calls for boycott by separatist leaders and killings of Sarpanchs across party lines by Pakistan backed militants, the people of the state of Jammu Kashmir came out in record numbers to exercise their democratic right as promised under the Indian Constitution. While many in New Delhi have hailed this as a 'pro-India' vote, it is important that we must not jump the gun. Whether we like it or not, there is a large section of population particularly in the Valley that has 'issues' with India. Instead of playing politics over the turnout, we need to take concrete efforts to make sure that the northern state and its people are completely integrated into the country. The people of the Valley have shown tremendous faith in the Indian democracy by choosing to take part in the recently concluded free and fair polls, something that can never happen across the other side of the border. Now it is up to the politicians to make sure that they deliver on their promises and don't let them down. At the same time, we must also commend the Election Commission of India and the security forces for making sure that the state elections were held peacefully in the politically volatile region.

(4) No respite in sight for the Congress: Considering the plight of the party in other parts of the country, Congressmen should be happy that they managed to cut down their losses and finished with a tally of 12 seats. But then, the sorry state of affairs in the grand old party is a major cause of concern. It goes on to show that the INC just does not have the will to initiate steps to put things back on track. The party seems to be waiting for a miracle to happen; at least as long as Rahul is at the helm of affairs, it is highly unlikely something of that sort could happen anytime in the near future. What should worry the INC is that not only is it losing ground, the BJP led by Modi is making inroads in states which have been traditional strongholds of the Congress. The year 2014 has seen the party and its remaining allies in the UPA lose as many as four states, three of these to the saffron outfit including Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand besides the drubbing that it got in the General Polls. If the Congress does not set things right in the next six months, it could well be game over for India's most celebrate political party.

(3) The supremacy of Kashmir's political dynasty is under threat: Yes you read it right. Many of you might think that I am not making sense. However, let me try to explain what I mean with the help of some numbers. In the 2002 polls, the two national parties - the Congress and the BJP together won 21 seats whereas the two major regional players viz the PDP and the NC bagged more than twice as much - 44. Six years later, the tally of the national parties grew to 28 while the parties based out of the Valley won 49. Surprisingly though, as the results began to trickle this Tuesday, an interesting thing to note was that the two parties had won 37 seats, just six less the combined tally of the PDP and the NC which stood at 43. With the two national outfits make headway in Jammu Kashmir, parties in Kashmir should be worried.

The People's Democratic Party (PDP) managed to edge past the BJP in the race to be the single largest party in the state winning 28 seats. Though it is certain that the outfit will be heading the next regime in Srinagar, the Muftis must be a tad disappointed that they could not win more seats; a tally of 35 would have more or less settled the issue of the formation of the next government. On the other hand though, Omar Abdullah must be happy that the NC prevented a rout, something that the pundits had predicted. Besides, in a hung assembly, Omar could still be the 'King Maker'.

(2) Take a bow BJP: Buoyed with the results of the 2014 General Polls wherein it won three of the six parliamentary seats from Jammu Kashmir, BJP President and Modi's 'Man Friday' Amit Shah set a herculean task before the party cadre here - 'Mission 44+'. While the party could only win 25 seats, it emerged as second largest party in the new Jammu Kashmir assembly, just three seats behind the PDP. So what if all the MLAs hail from Jammu or the fact that it could not make its political debut in Kashmir, with 23 percent of the votes it was the most popular party in the state in spite of the fact that it did not contest all the seats in the Valley. However, it would be extremely difficult for any of the two regional players to join hands with the BJP considering its tough stance on Article 370 and calls for greater autonomy to Kashmir. Even if it does not form the next government here, one thing is clear - the party will end up being the primary Opposition in the state assembly. Thus the BJP is all poised to play a much bigger role in India's only Muslim dominated state.

(1) The Politics of Regions: The northernmost state of the country is geographically and culturally divided into three regions - Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. For long, the people of Jammu and Ladakh have alleged that they have received step-motherly treatment at the hands of Kashmiri politicians and to a large extent it is true. However, the results of the 2014 polls have shown that opinions and political aspirations of the people of each of these regions is different.

Kashmir which accounts for 46 of the 87 seats in the state assembly did not elect a single BJP candidate. However, the seats here were split between the PDP, the NC, the Congress and others. The Muftis took home over half of the seats from this part of the state, the Abdullahs bagged 13 whereas the rest of the constituencies were won by the INC and others. In Ladakh, the Congress which had narrowly lost to the BJP in the last polls extracted some revenge by winning two of the four seats. In the Jammu region though, it was the BJP which took home the lion share of seats, winning a whopping 25 of the 37 seats, followed by the Congress, the NC and the PDP.


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