State elections in Indian Kashmir are afoot. Contrary to the other Indian states where elections are held after every five years, this exercise is done in J & K after every six years. The last elections in that state were held in 2008. As a result a coalition government of JK National Conference and Indian National Congress was formed.
The current Assembly will complete its tenure on 19 January 2015. Elections would be held on 87 out of the total 89 seats; the remaining two would be filled in by nomination. Elections would be held in five stages starting from November 25 and continuing on 2nd, 9th, 14th and 20th December. The counting of all the five phases would be held on 23rd December. Kashmir’s mainstream parties fielding candidates in these elections are NC (National Conference), Congress and PDP (Peoples Democratic Party).
Apart from these there are others too, such as National Panthers’ Party of Professor Bhim Singh, Kashmir Peoples Confernce of Sajjad Ghani Lone and Awami Itrhad Party of Engineer Sheikh Abdur Rashid. The most important aspect of these elections is that BJP, the political wing of Sangh Pariwar under whose umbrella are numerous extremist and militant Hindu parties such as Hindu Mahasabha, Jan Sangh, RSS, Bajrang Dal and many more, are determined to install their chief minister in Kashmir this time. They are encouraged after winning general elections of Lok Sabha and forming their government in the centre.
Lately they were also turned victorious in the state elections of Haryana and Maharashtara as a result of which their ambitions have further been enhanced. They openly claim that winning in other states is just no problem for them. However, J & K state elections are certainly something unachievable which they are determined to achieve. With their electioneering slogan “Dillhi hui hamari, Ab Kashmir ki Bari” (We have won Delhi, it’s now Kashmir’s turn), they have embarked on Mission 44. Mission 44 means to win 44 out of 87 seats, the simple majority by virtue of which they will be able to install their Chief Minister in Kashmir.
There are three regions of Indian Kashmir that is, Valley, Jammu and Laddakh. In 2008 state elections, BJP could win only 11 out of 37 seats from Jammu and none from the Valley and Laddakh. In this year’s general elections of Lok Sabha, they succeeded in getting two seats from Jammu and one from Laddakh. This has made a big difference to their future ambitious plans. This time they want to win 30 out of the 37 seats of Jammu, 5 to 6 out of 46 seats in the Valley and 3 out of 4 seats from Laddakh. How can they do this? They are banking upon the migrant Kashmiri Pundits vote. During the 1990s uprising nearly 200,000 Kashmiri Pundits had left Kashmir and settled in cities of India.
BJP claims that the number of eligible migrant Kashmir Pundit voters is 400,000. BJP has already got registered 126,000 of these votes. They are bent upon getting registered another 30,000 well on time before the expiry date of new registration. Furthermore they are trying to hook up the disgruntled leaders from other mainstream parties. Still further they want to be benefitted more and more by the division of vote bank of the mainstream parties. The development-hungry general public in the valley of Kashmir are fed up with the poor performance of the NC and Congress coalition during their current government.
They failed to come up to the expectations of those who worst suffered from the recent floods. The victims of floods feel that they were just left on the mercy of wind and wave when they badly needed governmental relief. BJP’s barefaced agenda after winning polls in Kashmir is to scrap Article 370 of the Indian Constitution which gives J & K a special status not enjoyable by other states. Yet this is another thing that after more than 90 Presidential orders little “special status” is left behind.
In 1963-64, Pundit Jawaher Lal Nehru, the Indian Premier and Gulzari Lal Nanda, the then Home Minister said: Article 370 is a tunnel through which everything could be passed that will render this article toothless. And it is now by and large toothless except that it provides for the psychological support to the suffering Kashmiris. Another irritant in J & K to the eyes of BJP is the residency rules (State Subject Rules) prevalent in the state since 1927-28 that make any non-state subject non-eligible to own land or property in the state.
The non-state subjects can get employment in the state services only after waving these rules by an official order. BJP is bent upon targeting these rules also. What would be the exact outcome of these polls, it is difficult to foresee at this time.