With the BJP getting its first electoral victories in the Valley, there appears to be a slow but tangible shift in the political winds in the Union Territory
The results of the Jammu and Kashmir District Development Council (DDC) elections have broadly been on expected lines, with the Gupkar Alliance winning most seats in Kashmir and the Bharatiya Janata Party winning most seats in the Jammu region.
However, with the BJP getting its first electoral victories in the Valley, there appears to be a slow but tangible shift in the political winds in the Union Territory.
In the Kashmir region, the BJP emerged victorious in one ward each in Pulwama, Bandipora and Srinagar.
These victories assume all the more significance as this was the first electoral process to have been held in Jammu and Kashmir since the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution, which provided for special status to the erstwhile state.
While the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) appears to have taken note of the BJP’s wins, its leaders have contended that the victories should not be ‘overplayed.’
I understand the temptation to over play the 3 seats the BJP has won in the valley but why underplay the 35 wins/leads of the @JKPAGD in Jammu province. We aren’t Kashmir based parties, we are political parties with strong support in both Kashmir AND Jammu.
— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) December 22, 2020
However, what is certain is that the BJP has unlocked new politically territory, albeit in a very limited sense.
The party’s Twitter handle struck an upbeat note while reacting to its victories:
Sh Vibodh Gupta: BJP(Lotus) blooms in Kashmir, records first victory in Srinagar, congratulates Kashmir workers for scripting history, said that people of Kashmir exhibited their faith in Hon’ PM Sh @narendramodi’s vision of Naya Kashmir, Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas pic.twitter.com/MaWvkDL8cJ
— BJP Kashmir (@bjpwithkashmir) December 22, 2020
On a similar note, Union minister Jitendra Singh told India Today, “It (the BJP’s performance) is testimony to the fact that people of Jammu and Kashmir believe in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision for the development of the Union Territory.”
He further said to the news channel that the BJP has emerged as a pan-Jammu and Kashmir party after the DDC elections results and it is acceptable to the people of the region.
While the BJP’s wins may seem insignificant in the larger scheme of things in Jammu and Kashmir, what makes them significant is the fact that the saffron party was up against the combined might of the constituents of the Gupkar Alliance. The DDC poll results are a break from how the BJP is perceived in the Valley.
The saffron party, however, had to put in a considerable amount of effort towards winning the wards in Pulwama, Bandipora and Srinagar. A number of senior party leaders, including Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Shahnawaz Hussain and Anurag Thakur campaigned for the BJP in the Valley.
The Economic Times quoted Hussain as saying, “We never claimed that we would win many seats in the Valley. But the fact that all other parties united against BJP is an admission that we are a force… Despite that we unlocked the door in the Valley by winning three seats. There were four-to-five seats where we lost by very small margin.”
However, question marks on whether there was a level playing field linger. The Gupkar Alliance has alleged that its candidates were not allowed to campaign and confined in security enclosures. The Central government has denied this claim.
The Gupkar Alliance also pointed out that it won several seats in Jammu despite the BJP’s tactics of ‘polarisation’.
An article in The Print quotes National Conference MP from Anantnag, Justice (retd) Hasnain Masoodi, as saying, “We have won a considerable amount of seats in Jammu despite all the polarisation done by BJP. There were other challenges, such as we were not allowed to campaign, harassment by central agencies but people of both Jammu and Kashmir have given a strong statement by voting for the Gupkar Alliance. The BJP now should introspect.”
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