By Sheikh Qayoom, Jammu/Srinagar, Aug 24 IANS | 4 months ago

The BJP's new aggression in Jammu and Kashmir ahead of assembly elections has shaken up the mainstream political parties in the state.

The BJP is hoping to win 44 assembly seats, and party president Amit Shah, a confidant of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is arriving here Monday to work out the finer details of his political strategy.

The most worried are the now ruling National Conference, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Congress, which even while continuing to be in the government, has broken its ties with the National Conference.

At the centre of the Bharatiya Janata Party's strategy to emerge a powerful player in Jammu and Kashmir are the Kashmiri migrants who live in the Kashmir Valley and the Hindu-majority Jammu region.

Although the BJP has asked voters in the valley voters to give it 'five lotuses' (five seats), its local leaders believe mobilising Pandit migrant votes could fetch it two to three seats in the coming polls.

The three assembly seats the BJP is eyeing in the valley are Habba Kadal, Amira Kadal and Sopore.

There are 46 assembly seats in the Kashmir Valley, 37 in the Jammu region and four in Ladakh.

Habba Kadal has over 24,000 migrant votes. The average voting in Habba Kadal has not exceeded 2,000 votes in the last three assembly elections.

If the BJP can mobilise just 5,000 migrant votes, the fortune of other contestants would be sealed in Habba Kadal given the past experience where most voters stayed away from exercising their franchise.

What is true of Habba Kadal is also true of Amira Kadal with over 12,000 migrant votes and Sopore with 6,000 migrant votes.

"If the BJP is able to get just an odd seat or two from the valley and two out of four from the Ladakh region, then the political paradigm in the state will change," a BJP leader told IANS.

"Believing the BJP can win over 20 seats from the Jammu region is a safe bet because at present they have 11 seats," the leader said.

"If the BJP is able to dictate who forms the next government in Jammu and Kashmir, it will be the biggest political development in the country's only Muslim-majority state," he added.

The Narendra Modi government called off the foreign secretary talks with Pakistan this week after Pakistan's high commissioner to India met a group of Kashmiri separatist leaders.

Despite warnings from Kashmiri politicians, the BJP also wants to scrap article 370 of the constitution which gives the state a special status in the Indian union.

It is not only the PDP leadership that is worried over the possibility of the BJP getting enough seats to become a kingmaker.

The National Conference is equally apprehensive. It consoles itself by arguing that the PDP would lose its valley-centric base if it allies with the BJP.

"They (PDP) have not said a word against the BJP and we hardly doubt they have a tacit understanding with them," a National Conference leader told IANS.

The Congress is the worst hit by the BJP's growing influence in Jammu and Kashmir.

In order to be one up on the BJP's rightwing agenda, senior Congress leader and minister Sham Lal Sharma has said that the next chief minister of the state should be a Hindu.

"There is nothing in the constitution that prevents a Hindu from becoming the chief minister. The next chief minister should be a Hindu," he said.

"There is nobody to take care of the interests of the Jammu region. Out of 7,000 employees in the Secretariat, just 200 belong to Jammu," he told a Congress rally in Jammu recently.

(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at sheikh.abdul@ians.in)

(Posted on 24-08-2014)

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