Parties prepare for new dawn of J&K assembly

Jammu and Kashmir’s political parties have been out of their hiatus since August 5, 2019, ending the BJP government’s more than two-year decree of an informal and selective shutdown of major political activities in Union territory . All eyes are on the Boundaries Commission report which should pave the way for the first elections in UT.

The committee’s proposal to increase six seats for the Jammu division and one for the Kashmir division drew strong reactions from regional parties. Yet all, including three former chief ministers – Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti – are bracing for the 2022 electoral battle, despite the fact that this assembly will be weaker than that of the former J&K state.

According to the Union’s Interior Minister, Amit Shah, the state will be restored once the delimitation process is completed and the elections organized. The abnormal nature of the situation on the ground in Kashmir could come as a surprise in 2022.

“The elections for J&K are expected to take place around September or October of next year, as the BJP would be busy with elections in other states, in particular the UP, then the Amarnath Yatra is scheduled in Kashmir from June to August” said a senior administration official. said ET.

The People’s Alliance for the Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), a grouping of regional parties like the National Conference, the People’s Democratic Party and the CPM, which was formed in October 2020 and led by Farooq Abdullah to fight for recovery J&K Special Status and State Status, planned to fight together. But their experience in the District Development Council elections in 2020 was not perfect. In several places, parties fought against each other by fielding independent candidates or providing technical support to the opposition.

Outside this group are the Congress, the Apni Party of Altaf Bukhari launched in March 2020 and the People’s Conference of Sajad Lone, which split from the PAGD after the SDC elections. The PAGD often portrays the Apni Party and the PC as “outsiders” to J & K’s natural electoral ecosystem, but both parties have been successful in removing candidates from PAGD voters.

What does the data reflect?

According to data from the 2014 legislative elections in the J&K, the PDP won a majority of 28 seats, followed by the BJP with 25, NC (15), Congress (12), PC (2), independents (3), CPM (1) and People’s Front Démocratique (1). On the percentage of votes of 65.91%, the BJP obtained 23%, the PDP 22.7%, the NC 20.8% and the Congress 18%.

Cashmere

In Kashmir, the situation has changed dramatically as at least 16 of the PDP’s winning candidates in 2014 were sacked, resigned or deserted the party. At least 10 of them joined Bukhari, while four joined Lone’s PC.

The National Conference has problems in two of its strongholds in Kashmir as former lawmakers like Aga Ruhullah of Budgam and Ishfaq Jabbar of Ganderbal are not happy within the party and have expressed their concerns vehemently.

Congress is grappling with infighting within the party and has lost at least three assembly seats to Ladakh UT and in the Valley some promising candidates are expressing their allegiance to Ghulam Nabi Azad.

Jammu

In Jammu, where the BJP won 25 seats in previous elections, the party consolidated its position by rallying the National Conference’s Devinder Singh Rana and two others. This will help the BJP to increase their count in Jammu. If the final delineation report maintains the draft proposal suggestions, the BJP’s dream of having a chief minister from Jammu may not be too far off. In October 2020, around 20 political and religious parties in Jammu joined forces to sign a “Jammu Declaration” document demanding a “state” for the Jammu region. They deplored the continued neglect and deprivation of the Jammu region with Union territory, despite the repeal of the special statute.

Azad’s independent appointment in Jammu has compromised the position of Congress, which will benefit the BJP. “Azad’s understanding of congressional politics across the country is phenomenal. His break with the party would always be of great help to the BJP not only here but also elsewhere in the country,” Prof Dipankar Sengupta said. , who teaches economics in Jammu. University. “These political parties don’t want grassroots empowerment and that’s why they don’t want to empower the SDC,” Sengupta said.

What the SDC surveys reflect

In the DDC elections, the BJP became the largest individual party winning 75 of the 278 seats, followed by 67 from the NC and 50 by the independents. However, the PAGD has won over 110 seats and chairs eight of the 20 DDCs while the BJP has six, the Apni Party and the People’s Conference have two each and the other two are led by independents. “No party will win a majority on its own,” Sengupta said.

What political parties say

Political parties frequently raise the issue of the regional divide between Jammu and Srinagar and all except the BJP speak of the restoration of the state and the special status of the J&K. However, no one denies the possibility of an alliance government.

“This unity of J&K is a myth. The two regions have never been emotionally together, at least since 1931. In 1983, Rajiv Gandhi came to Jammu and told voters that if they vote for NC, Jammu will become the Pakistan, so nothing new is happening here. The end of the old is not necessarily the start of the new, “said Zafar Manhas of J&K Apni Party.

“Everyone wants to be part of the electoral process despite the shock of August 5, 2019 and knowing that elected officials will have no power. It is about the day-to-day survival of politicians,” added Manhas. He said there would be huge fragmentation of votes in Kashmir but consolidation in Jammu.

“The boycott of the elections will also play a role in Kashmir. There should be no unfounded optimism. There is no promised land waiting for us,” he said.

PDP chief spokesperson Suhail Bukhari said: “August 5, 2019 has added another layer of complexity to this region. Our cause is bigger than the elections and we will work for the goals that the PAGD has set, ”Bukhari said.

NC spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar said J&K faces serious challenges and is fighting for the reinstatement of Articles 370 and 35 (A). “We have momentarily lost an important member in Jammu, but it happens in politics. The SDC elections have proven that we are a force to be reckoned with,” Dar said.

People’s Conference spokesman Adnan Ashraf said: “Development cannot be the only element in elections. A struggle between two regions of Kashmir and Jammu has arisen, especially after the report of the delimitation commission (proposals). 2014. The center of identity and governance evolves. ”

“There is no possibility of a boycott and we are occupying this space. But we oppose the decisions of August 5, 2019 and the laws adopted after that. This delimitation exercise will have an impact on our future generations,” he said. he declares. He claims that the PAGD is non-existent on the ground. “NC leaders are already criticizing their PAGD colleagues at public gatherings,” he said.

Senior BJP official at J&K, Arun Gupta, said Kashmir-based politicians were citing regional division for their survival. “People who have not obtained justice in their governments are witnessing development and obtaining justice,” Gupta said.

He is convinced that the BJP will win important seats in the next elections in the Valley. “Let’s not talk about parties. We need to focus on the next government that cares about the welfare of the people. Under the central government led by the BJP, the people are gaining power at the grassroots. The people of J&K will grant recognition. wanted at BJP, ”Gupta says.

“The formation of government does not belong to any family or region. Our constitution gives equal opportunities to all,” he said. “The BJP does not have a hidden agenda and we do not work with anyone in a particularly clandestine manner (including Ghulab Nabi Azad),” he said.

“The parties in Kashmir are following a set program to stay in power. They will not do anything different if elections are held in 2022. It is not an ideological group and cannot emerge under a new avatar,” Khalid said. Wasim Hassan, assistant professor in the department. of Political Science and Governance at the Central University of Kashmir. Hassan believes that the boundary commission’s proposal is “a program offered by the Indian government to these parties, so that they can go out to the people and succeed in getting some traction. Otherwise, they have lost their bargaining power.” .

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