The political spectacle following the results of assembly elections in Kashmir is proving to be more interesting than expected. All the political parties are following the unwritten rule about there being no permanent friends and foes in politics. On the other hand people might as well be realising that when Mark Twain said, “If voting made any difference they would not let us do it!”, he was not completely being irrationally critical of the election process in a modern democracy.
The election results have not placed any party close to the required number of seats to form the government. So, all the parties are seen lobbying with each other for government formation. And it is turning out to be a theatre of hypocrisy with every political party apparently reneging on its stand against its political opponents. While campaigning for votes, all the political parties which are now seen hobnobbing each other in a bid to stay in power were virtually at the throats of each other in their rhetoric. The Indian PM Narendra Modi, of the BJP, had even gone to the extent of appealing to the people of Jammu and Kashmir to get themselves rid of the dynasty rule referring to the two main regional parties –People's Democratic Party (JKPDP) and National Conference (JKNC). And now, with the election results out, the BJP is trying both the options in order to ascend to power for the first time in Jammu and Kashmir. And if it succeeds in forming the government with either of the two regional parties, it would be for the first time ever that a Hindu nationalist party would come to power in the state.
This election also laid bare the communal divisive agenda of the BJP. The BJP's rise to political power in India, in general, has been a direct result of polarisation of the electorate along communal basis. From 2 seats in 1984 elections its tally in the Indian parliament rose to 86 in the 1989 elections and then to 161 in the 1996 elections, emerging as the single largest party. This was after BJP leader L K Advani led a religious cross country journey called Rath Yatra throughout India which culminated in the demolition of the 16th Century Babri Masjid by the volunteers of RSS (BJP parent organisation). The same BJP has now been successful in this election winning 25 seats in the 87 member Legislative Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir (Indian Held-Kashmir). The fact that all of these 25 seats come from the region where Hindus are in majority is a proof in itself that the front on which BJP fights elections is not of development but of religious polarisation and communal rhetoric. Pertinent to mention here that some high profile leaders of the now elected BJP legislature party are the ones who led the enforcement of an economic blockade on the Kashmir valley back in 2008 resulting in huge economic losses as well as anti-Kashmiri violence. This was the opportunity BJP exploited to the fullest to further its polarisation result. As a result, in the 2008 elections, it got a respectable tally of 11 seats. In the 2014 elections, the polarisation project of BJP in Jammu and Kashmir seems complete.
With 25 members in the 87 member assembly, the presence of BJP is definitely a cause of concern, whether in power or in opposition. In power, they are known to give a free hand to the Hindutva hooliganism as is the case in those states of India where they are in power. And in opposition they are known to use 'any means necessary' to cower down the government. Inciting riots and further capitalising on the resultant polarisation is an undeclared part of the BJP strategy to win elections. And rightly so, this party is considered generally communal and particularly anti-Muslim by majority of Kashmiris. As a result it could not even win one seat from the Kashmir valley despite the Prime Minister Modi himself leading a rally in Srinagar and endorsing all the candidates of his party by name in front of an unexpectedly large crowd of people. And with regional parties having expressed the willingness to align with the BJP for government formation, in the process betraying the same anti-BJP sentiment they used to garner votes in Kashmir, it is bound to backfire for them in the times to come. I feel it is not the relatively higher voter turnout in this election for which it will be remembered. However, it is the results it has thrown up and the resulting alliances which will change the way Kashmiris view the whole election process in the future.