No Lok Sabha elections have been crucial for the Kashmirvalley and its people than this Lok Sabha elections. Here "Pulwama", "Kashmir'sconstitutional link with mainland India under Article 370 and Article 35A" and"national security", all the three constituted a significant part of thenational poll agenda espoused specifically by the BJP and its national leaders.
It doesn't matter that Kashmir valley only contributes 3 LokSabha seats to the parliamentary elections and therefore no Kashmir based partyis likely to have any major importance in any post-election alliance in Delhi,but given the fact that "Kashmir narrative" has managed to capture nationalimagination has meant that Kashmir has now acquired larger than life centerstage in national politics of India, thanks largely to its push by the BJP,which most exit polls are predicting, will once again capture power in Delhi,perhaps with even greater majority than before. But the greater question thatarises is that, what does it all mean for the people of Kashmir valley and theJ&K state, especially in view of the pending J&K state assemblyelections?
The big story of this Lok Sabha election is how the BJP hasmanaged to set the agenda at every stage of the seven stage polling with otherpolitical parties including both Congress and the so called "third front"having been reduced to reactionary forces, whether it is the role of RajivGandhi in 1984 Sikh riots or BJP's very open and public confrontation withMamata Banerjee in West Bengal, the BJP has clearly been in the leading seat informulating poll narrative. What however, most people in Kashmir valley tend todeliberately ignore is the fact that it is not only in the national politics ofmainland India but the BJP has also emerged as the only political pivot aroundwhich entire politics of even J&K state now revolves.
BJP is already the largest party of the J&K in terms ofthe vote share, though most of that comes from densely populated Hindudominated areas of Jammu. However, BJP has also emerged as a major politicalplayer in Muslim dominated areas of Jammu like Pir Panjal and Chenab valley aswell as Buddhist dominated Leh region of Ladakh and has even opened its accountin Shia dominated Kargil, where the BJP recently won its first ever seat inlocal Kargil autonomous council. It isonly the Kashmir valley, with the largest number of assembly segment seats inJ&K, that has so far resisted the advent and spread of BJP, but things havebeen evolving very fast in Kashmir valley and that could have far reachingconsequences for the electoral politics of J&K.
The chances of BJP making any electoral gains in anoverwhelmingly Muslim majority Kashmir valley is very bleak, but the badlydivided electoral political field of Kashmir valley has made BJP, perhaps themost powerful political party of the J&K, given the fact that Hindudominated assembly segments of Jammu continue to remain solidly behind BJP and Congress has weakened considerably,having only pockets of influence in Jammu, Ladakh & Kashmir.
If BJP indeed comes to power in Delhi on 23rd and buoyant bythat, the Modi government does indeeddecide to hold J&K state assembly elections in July then the chances arethat the BJP will emerge as the single largest party of the J&K, withKashmir valley getting badly split among 5 political blocks. While NorthKashmir will see a four-corner fight among the resurgent People's Conference ofSajad Lone, PDP, NC and newly formed JKPM of Shah Faesal; Central Kashmir willsee a tough fight between PDP and NC and South Kashmir will mostly see thecontinuing dominance of PDP with little pockets of resistance from Congress.Also add to this messy Kashmiri political soup, independents like EngineerRashid and Mohammad Yusuf Taragami.
All this basically means that electoral politics in J&Kwill perhaps go back to 2014, wherein the dilemma that PDP faced, will once againbe faced by whichever Kashmir based party emerges as the largest – "What to dowith Jammu?"
The "Jammu factor", which most people in Kashmir valleyignore, cannot however be ignored by Kashmir based political parties, who areunder moral and ethical obligation to take "both" Jammu & Kashmir regionstogether, regardless of that region having given them mandate or not. NeitherKashmir based parties nor BJP can form the government that only has cabinetfrom only one religion or region. This essentially means that neither can BJPform government only with Sajad Lone's PC and nor can NC or PDP form governmentonly with each other or with Congress because that will keep a big chunk ofJammu Hindus or Kashmiri Muslims unrepresented. Earlier, when Congress was adominant force in Hindu areas of Jammu, alliance of Kashmir based parties withCongress would include Hindus of Jammu, but with decimation of Congress inHindu areas of Jammu and its replacement by BJP, the entire dynamics ofgovernment formation has changed in J&K state.
The earlier "experiment" of BJP – PDP alliance boomerangedas neither the people of Kashmir valley and Jammu region accepted this alliancenor were these political parties able to work cohesively under the weight ofcontrasting political ideologies. The result was the collapse of the alliance.
But the harsh truth is that "there is no other choice" butto forge such kind of alliance once again. It is a bitter pill that needs to beswallowed by everyone. The political engagement of the resurgent BJP, by aKashmir based party may perhaps have a moderating impact on BJP, which runs itsnationalist agenda based largely on Kashmir. It is however the people of both Kashmir valley and Jammu that will haveto accept the changing political reality of the J&K state. Will that happenand will political parties of J&K be able to convince the electorate ofboth Kashmir valley and Jammu to this "harsh truth", only time will tell.
(Javaid Beigh is a Political Activist and aspiringpolitician, who has worked as PRO to Ex-CM of J&K. He holds MBA & MPAdegrees, besides having many years of corporate work experience at some of topFortune-500 companies like INFOSYS TECHNOLOGIES BANGALORE…)