Only days are left for the results of the Lok Sabha elections to be announced. National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party and Peoples Conference have kept their fingers crossed.
Among these parties NC is confident about winning all the three seats in Kashmir, while PDP and PC are hoping to at least win one seat each. But the low polling percentage in south Kashmir had made the contest interesting as some people are of the opinion that Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee chief and party’s candidate Ghulam Ahmed Mir can throw a surprise. On the other hand north Kashmir witnessed more than 35% polling and it could be anyone’s bet.
Election Commission imposing a ban on exit polls has added to the suspense and who would form the next government at the Centre is still not clear. But who would rule the country for next five years will definitely make a big difference in Jammu and Kashmir, especially in the Valley.
During the past five years, Kashmiri leaders have seen many ups and downs. The Bharatiya Janata Party started its innings by joining hands with the PDP and went on to share the power in J&K for the first time in the past seventy years. But just few months before the general elections BJP pulled out from the PDP led government in Jammu and Kashmir and termed it as a party with “separatist leanings.”
Since the day PDP led government has fallen in the state, Kashmiri leaders have been facing a tough time. In fact New Delhi during all these months has ignored them (Kashmiri leaders) and has not paid any heed towards their suggestions. The National Conference vice-president, Omar Abdullah, has been raising the pitch for holding the Assembly elections without any further delay but till now no one has paid any attention towards his repeated requests. The million dollar question is if there is a change of guard at the Centre would it help the Kashmiri politicians? Or the policy which has been formulated by the BJP led NDA government would be carried forward? Things will be clear within a few days.
Both NC and PDP know it very well that despite low voter turnout the results of Lok Sabha elections do mean a lot to them. These results would indicate which party has got an upper hand. Centre cannot delay the Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir forever and if situation remains calm there is every possibility about the polls being held within this year.
A few people are of the opinion that if situation in Kashmir remains under control the polling percentage in the Assembly polls would be much better than the recently held Parliamentary elections. Despite many new parties emerging at the political arena of the Valley the main contest will be between PDP and NC in Kashmir. Both these parties can’t depend on Jammu and Ladakh regions. During the past few years New Delhi has succeeded in limiting the regional parties to Kashmir only, while in Jammu the national parties have been calling the shots.
Many people are of the opinion that if there is no change of guard at the Centre after 23 May, it would mean that Kashmiri leaders would be left with no other option other than to soften their stand and toe the line which they would be asked to follow.
The BJP after breaking its alliance with the PDP has made its intentions clear that it can run the affairs in J&K without the help of the local politicians. The happenings of recent months have made it clear that the people sitting in New Delhi are in no mood to give any space to the local leaders, who time and again try to highlight the political dimension of Kashmir. For, New Delhi Kashmir is a settled issue and anyone who talks about it doesn’t fit in their scheme of things. The mainstream politicians seem to have understood it as during the recent election campaign none of the political leaders spoke about Kashmir being a problem. Their campaign revolved around safeguarding Article 370, getting back the posts of Sadar-e-Riyasat and Wazir-e-Azam and other local issues. Leaders didn’t talk about Pakistan and the role of the separatists. Whether Kashmiri leaders agree or not but the fact is that there has been a pragmatic shift in their electoral politics during the past few months. The Kashmir leaders have put the ball in Delhi’s court now it’s for people sitting there to decide whether they want to give another chance to mainstream leaders in the Valley or not?
(Javaid Malik is Senior Editor Greater Kashmir)