Kashmir Waits For the Verdict
Mehbooba Mufti’s future in the line
SRINAGAR: With most exit polls forecasting a clear majority for the BJP-led NDA, Kashmir, which was at the centre of the heated poll campaign, is waiting for the results of three seats that will determine the region’s political landscape in the coming weeks and months.
The outcome of the north Kashmir Lok Sabha seat, which Sajad Lone’s Peoples Conference is hoping to win, and south Kashmir’s Anantnag seat that will determine the fate of Mehbooba Mufti as the Peoples Democratic Party chief, will be key to political developments in the Valley.
If PDP chief Mehbooba loses, observers say, she may come under increasing pressure from other party leaders to step down. “If she resists the pressure, it may lead to further desertions in the party ranks,” observers said.
Last year, at least five prominent faces of the PDP, including the Shia leader Imran Reza Ansari and Basharat Bukhari, brother of late journalist Shujaat Bukhari, left the party. While Ansari joined Peoples Conference, Bukhari shook hands with National Conference.
The suicide bomber from Pulwama who rammed his car into a CRPF convoy, killing 49 paramilitary troopers on February 14 and injuring dozens more, thrust Kashmir on the centre stage of the BJP’s election campaign.
“If (PM Narendra) Modi wins, it would be because of the Pulwama car bomb blast which helped him turn the campaign to (issues of) security rather than development,” Ashiq Hussain, a prominent political commentator in Srinagar, said.
According to political observers, if the BJP returns to power, the central government will extend the President’s rule in the border state. “They (BJP) will like to run the state directly than deal with a hostile government (in J&K),” Umair Gul, professor of conflict studies and research scholar, said, “But elections can’t be delayed forever.”
Jammu and Kashmir is without an elected government since June 19 last year when the PDP-BJP coalition fell apart after a bitter, backstage squabbling over a range of issues between the two parties.
Although the regional parties have been demanding early assembly polls, the exercise was delayed due to the fears of large scale law and order disturbances in the Valley amid worsening security situation since past three years and spiralling militancy.
Due to security requirement across the country in view of the Lok Sabha polls, not enough personnel were available for deployment in Kashmir Valley where less than 18 percent voter turnout was recorded amid sporadic incidents of violence in south Kashmir.
“(State assembly) Elections are unlikely to be held before Amarnath yatra in any case. If the situation remains on the boil, it will further delay the exercise. However, the (BJP-led central) government may push some key developmental initiatives to try and make a turnaround in Kashmir,” another political commentator, wishing anonymity, said.
Delaying assembly polls will also favour the allies of the BJP in Kashmir, including Lone-led Peoples Conference which has been growing from strength to strength since past few months.
“If PC manages to win the north Kashmir seat, it will give a major boost to the BJP’s plans of returning to power in Jammu and Kashmir. With situation on boil, poll boycott is only going to favour the two parties,” observers said.