The exceptional percentage of over 70 percent voting in the first phase in Jammu and Kashmir in assembly elections has made it clear that people’s voice is for change. No doubt, voting percentage graph has seen increase upwards since the elections were held in 1996 through coercion and co-option by the security forces thus indicates the faith in democracy.
People had decided to come out in large numbers because if they listened to the boycott call of separatists, it would mean they leave the field open for corrupt and insensitive candidates to win the election. Like the rest of the country, people in Jammu and Kashmir have given clear and strong expression to a desire for change.
Desire for change is not only in two-decade long militancy in Jammu and Kashmir but also in the administration and more importantly in the mindset. It has to be noted that sections of political leadership, besides the separatists and secessionists, have been accused of misleading the people by spreading falsehood and canard and thus creating negative and disruptive mindset among unsuspecting people.
Notwithstanding, claims are being made by four major mainstream political parties, PDP, BJP, NC and the Congress, for winning a comfortable majority in the ongoing Assembly election. But the reports indicate that the election may throw up a hung House. This time even if the Congress wins more than 12 seats it may not opt for forging an alliance with the NC but would prefer to repeat 2002 experiment when the Congress-PDP rule proved to be smoother than the Congress-NC coalition Government.
Sources also say that if the PDP was able to win more than 25 seats it may opt for forging an alliance with the Congress but with the condition that the Government has to complete six-year term under the Chief Ministership of Mufti Mohd.Sayeed. In 2002 the Congress and the PDP had to lead the Government by turns. It was Mufti Sayeed who headed the Government for first three years and for the remaining two and half years by Ghulam Nabi Azad.
Now,the BJP is trying to win a sizeable number of seats which could help it to form for the Government with the support of some smaller parties and some independents. Though this time the chances for independent candidates making it to the Assembly are remote, the BJP may have to bank on either the NC or the PDP. Reports do indicate that the NC may give support to the BJP led Government from outside.
However, sources close to BJP admit, "BJP will again fail to open its account in Kashmir". They say the "high voter turnout in the Valley would ensure defeat of the BJP candidates even in the five constituencies in the Valley which it has been eying". The constituencies include Amira Kadal, Habba Kadal, Tral, Bijbehera and Anantnag. "Even if all the Kashmiri Pandit (KP)migrant voters vote en-block in these constituencies, the BJP will suffer a defeat," claim sources. Further adding that KP number is so small that they cannot tilt the balance in favour of the BJP.
Giving reasons for making mission + 44 impossible, firstly BJP sidelining sincere party workers and giving undue importance to outsiders who joined the party to further their personal ambitions. Secondly, poor selection of candidates in Jammu province thus gave birth to rebels. Thirdly, seven expelled MLA brought back in party fold not given mandates and lastly BJP failed to create good will in Kashmir after flood devastation.
The BJP instead of releasing its manifesto issued “Vision Document” hoping that it would help it win 44+ seats in Jammu & Kashmir. Even a superficial glance at the document would make even a naive to conclude that it would surely mar its electoral chances in Jammu province in the remaining four phases of assembly election. The reason is that the BJP made certain promises, which it cannot fulfill so long as Article 370 exists and discard its ideology to "appease Kashmiri separatists". The sharp reaction it has evoked from leaders of refugees from West Pakistan, Scheduled Tribe communities, Other Backward Classes, Refugees from PoJK and other stakeholders in Jammu clearly indicate that either their followers would abstain from voting or they would vote against the BJP. If it happens, the BJP would not be able to win 20 seats in Jammu province rather would confine to 14-15, according to political pundits. But the party's poll managers are expecting to win 29 to 31 seats in Jammu province, four to six in Kashmir and three in Ladakh.
It is pertinent to keep the political record straight that in 1977 Janta Party wave in Kashmir was so overwhelmed that Choudhary Charan Singh, the then Union Home Minister had formed cabinet before the elections. But Morarji Desai, the Prime Minister had secret deal with Late Sheikh Mohd Abdullah and Janta Party was wiped out in overnight and two MLAs from Janta Party, Abdul Rashid Kabli and late A G Lone (father of Sajad Lone who is contesting as Peoples Conference candidate) were elected. It looks that Janta Party mistake is once again being repeated by BJP.