Back to square one

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, steering his party to an emphatic win in 2019 Lok Sabha elections has left the opposition parties dumbfounded.

In Jammu and Kashmir the BJP’s old ally Peoples Democratic Party is on warpath with the saffron party since the day BJP pulled out from the PDP led government in the state. After the BJP snapped ties with the PDP in June 2018, the party vowed not to align with the BJP again and described joining hands with the saffron party as its “biggest mistake.”

However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s big win has put the PDP in quandary. It’s not the PDP only, which is in the tight spot, its bête-noire, National Conference, too has been caught on the wrong foot. Both the parties have realised that whether they like it or not one of them would have to make a compromise and join hands with the BJP if they want to form government in Jammu and Kashmir.

Recent results of the Parliamentary elections have proven it beyond doubt that NC has got an upper hand and its performance has been much better than the PDP in most of the Assembly segments in Kashmir. Despite winning all the three Parliamentary seats in the Valley, NC has realised that it would fall short of majority and it would be impossible for the party to form the government in Jammu and Kashmir without the support of other parties.

The recently held Lok Sabha polls have left only two main contenders in fray for the Assembly elections, BJP and NC.  Now it’s for NC to decide whether to contest the forthcoming Assembly elections by projecting BJP as the “untouchable” party in Kashmir or to keep its options open. The PDP’s performance in the Parliamentary polls was dismal and as on date PDP—which won 28 Assembly segments in 2014—stands decimated. The recent poll results have proven it beyond doubt that if all the Kashmir based parties come together still they would fall short of magic figure of 44 seats, which are needed to form a government in Jammu and Kashmir.

There is no doubt about the fact that BJP is on a strong wicket as it won all the three Lok Sabha seats in Jammu and Ladakh regions. It has also increased its vote share but the saffron party too won’t be able to form a government in Jammu and Kashmir on its own. The only possible combination which seems to be emerging if J&K has to have a popular government could be NC-BJP combine as the idea of non-BJP parties entering into a “grand alliance” in J&K seems to have taken a back seat.

Everyone is aware about the fact that J&K cannot remain under President’s rule forever and the Centre would have to hold the Assembly elections sooner or later. The coming months are not going to be that easy for the political parties in Kashmir. Many people are of the opinion that whenever elections are held in Jammu and Kashmir these would be an entirely different ball game. Political equations can change.

The results of recently held Lok Sabha polls have thrown the field open but the options seem limited. The equations can change in Kashmir if the polling percentage increases and more people come out to exercise their franchise. President of Awami Ithad Party, Er Rashid and  Peoples Conference led by Sajad Gani Lone bagging more than one lakh votes respectively in north Kashmir has opened yet another chapter in the political history of  Kashmir. Another young leader, IAS topper, Shah Faesal, too can throw few surprises if youth decide to become a part of the electoral process. But J&K’s “Grand Old Party” National Conference is all set to gain due to PDP losing its ground across the Valley. In 2014, PDP gained due to NC’s debacle and in 2019, NC has made a strong comeback due to the mistakes committed by the PDP. This cycle would continue till the new parties which are emerging on the political arena of the Valley gain some ground.

If National Conference emerges as the main player after the Assembly elections in the state it would be interesting to watch whether it would follow the footsteps of PDP to regain the power or it would try something different to keep New Delhi busy.

(Javaid Malik is Senior Editor Greater Kashmir)