J&K can’t afford re-establishment of Farooq Abdullah/Omar Abdullah’s rule or Mehbooba Mufti’s rule or Sajad Lone’s rule for obvious reasons. Will the BJP do the doable?
On December 13, BJP national president, Amit Shah, claimed that people of Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh “have full faith in the BJP” and that “the BJP will get a majority in the upcoming Assembly elections and form its own government in the state”. He made this claim during his meeting with J&K BJP chief, Ravinder Raina, in New Delhi. BJP general secretary and party’s point man on J&K, Ram Madhav, and J&K Prabhari, Avinash Rai Khanna, were also present during the meeting, which was reportedly held to discuss the election strategy calculated to win the upcoming Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in the state, especially Jammu and Ladakh.
Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Sumitra Mahajan, has accepted Thupstan Chhewwang resignation and it must be considered a big jolt for the BJP.
Earlier, J&K chief, Ravinder Raina, had also claimed that the BJP was fully prepared for the coming Assembly elections in the state. He had also claimed that “it would win more seats this time as compared to 2014 and the next CM of the state would be from the BJP”.
“With the active participation of Morchas and the dedication shown by party activists, who have geared up for the coming Assembly elections, there are 100 percent chances that the next CM of J&K will be from the BJP,” Raina had said, adding that the poll prospects of the BJP were very bright as not only the people of Jammu and Ladakh but the people of Kashmir were also impressed by the performance and policies of PM Narinder Modi.
To be more exact, both Amit Shah and Ravinder Raina gave people to understand that this time the BJP could win the required number of seats (44) in the 87-member Assembly. In 2014 as well, the BJP’s target was 44, but it could win only 25 and that, too, from Jammu province, which elects 37 members to the Assembly. Both Ladakh and Kashmir had rejected the BJP outright. It had not won even one seat out of 46 in Kashmir and 4 in Ladakh. It failed to open its account in Kashmir despite the fact that it had compromised its age-old stand on Article 370 and didn’t release its manifesto which did contain three lines on Article 370. And, it lost Ladakh because it had taken a U-turn on Article 370.
Amit Shah heads the BJP at the national level and Raina is president of the state unit of the BJP. They had to say and claim what they said and claimed to keep high the morale of the otherwise “broken-hearted” BJP cadres, followers and supporters.
However, the ground situation in the state is altogether different. In Ladakh, its core constituency (Buddhists) has almost deserted the BJP and turned more radical in the sense that it has for the first time demanded: “trifurcation of the state” saying the three-way split of J&K alone could be the lasting solution to the issues afflicting Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh. Earlier, they used to demand UT status for Ladakh. Besides, there were reports that the “efforts of the party high command to persuade top BJP leader from Ladakh, Thupstan Chhewwang, to withdraw his letter of resignation from the PM Narendra Modi and Amit Shah and Lok Sabha have failed to produce the desired result”. These reports have turned out to be true. Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Sumitra Mahajan, has accepted his resignation and it must be considered a big jolt for the BJP.
The people of Jammu are questioning the claim of the BJP that the next CM of the state will be from the BJP and they are raising some valid questions.
Thupstan had turned against BJP national general secretary and in-charge J&K Ram Madhav and J&K BJP chief Raina and had held them responsible for the “collapse of the BJP” in the trans-Himalayan Ladakh. He had accused both Ram Madhav and Raina of letting down the people of Ladakh and also taken on the party leadership for going back on its commitment that the BJP if voted to power, “will grant UT status to Ladakh and include Bhoti language in the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution”.
In Kashmir, the BJP has little or no chance. The constituency in Kashmir is such. Kashmir will replicate 2014 in 2019 as well, in case elections were actually held in the militant-infested Kashmir. In 2014, all but one BJP candidates had forfeited their security deposits and this despite the fact that PM Modi himself had addressed one election rally in Kashmir and the party had reportedly spent 100s of crores of rupees in Kashmir hoping that its all-out efforts would help the party open its account in the Valley.
As for Jammu, which was once considered the strong support-base of the BJP, things have changed and changed drastically. The people have last faith in the party as it failed to deliver on any front. What has annoyed its core constituency all the more was its tie with the pro-self-rule PDP of late Mufti Sayeed and his daughter Mehbooba Mufti and hobnobbing with another separatist-turned-mainstream Kashmiri Sajad Lone. The BJP had violated the Jammu mandate on March 1, 2015, when it shook hands with the PDP and became a junior partner in the Mufti-led government and made Sajad Lone Cabinet Minister out of its own quota. The BJP did snap ties with the PDP on June 19, 2018, and brought down the Mehbooba Mufti-led government, but it continued to flirt with Sajad Lone, author of “Achievable Nationhood” and votary of J&K’s independence and of a solution that is acceptable to the majority community (read Muslims).
The fact of the matter is that the BJP upset its own applecart on November 21 (the day the J&K assembly was dissolved by Governor SP Malik), when it extended unflinching support to Sajad Lone. Lone’s party, People’s Conference, had just 2 members in the dissolved Assembly and both were from Kashmir belonging to a particular religious sect. In his letter to the state Governor, Lone had claimed that he had the support of 44 MLAs and asked the Governor to invite him to form a coalition government in the state. He claimed in his letter that “all the 25 MLAs from BJP and 18 other MLAs from other parties were with him”. This claim of Lone has punctured the BJP’s balloon and widened the gulf between the BJP and its erstwhile supporters in Jammu province.
No wonder then that the people of Jammu are questioning the claim of the BJP that the next CM of the state will be from the BJP. They are raising some valid questions and some of the questions are: “Did it not promise Hindu CM in 2014? What it did after winning 25 seats from Jammu? Did it not barter Jammu and hand over the Jammu mandate to the Muftis, known more for their hostile attitude towards India and Jammu and Ladakh? Did it not compromise its age-old ideology for the sake of a few berths in the Kashmir-controlled, dominated and guided Cabinet”.
It’s a God-sent opportunity and the BJP needs to make optimum use of it both in the larger national interest and in its own interest.
“No, the BJP has fallen from the grace and no one could trust it anymore,” say its critics, adding that “even intense campaign by PM Narendra Modi in Jammu will not help the BJP in any way” and that “the recent results in the just held-ULB and panchayat elections have established that the people have little interest in the BJP” .
However, to say all this is not to suggest that the BJP can’t win elections in Jammu and Ladakh. It can win all the three Lok Sabha seats in Jammu and Ladakh and at least 34 Assembly seats in these two regions – 31 from Jammu and 3 from Ladakh. But it has to do at least 7 things before the ECI imposes Model Code of Conduct.
- The BJP should concede the demand of the Ladakhi Buddhists seeking UT status for their region and inclusion of Bhoti language in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution,
- The BJP should de-link Jammu from Kashmir and grant it the status of statehood’
- The BJP should consider the 27-year-old demand of the persecuted and hounded out Kashmiri Hindus seeking separate homeland within Kashmir invested with the UT status,
- The BJP should scrap Article 35A and Article 370 and integrate the whole of the regions fully into India,
- The BJP should grant citizenship rights to the Hindu-Sikh refugees from Pakistan living in Jammu since 1947,
- The BJP should compensate the losses the refugees from Pakistan-occupied-J&K suffered due to their forced migration to Jammu in 1947-1948, and
- The BJP should deport all Rohingyas and Bangladeshis from Jammu.
The BJP can do all these seven things because J&K is now under the President’s Rule and the President’s Rule practically means the rule of the BJP. It’s a God-sent opportunity and the BJP needs to make optimum use of it both in the larger national interest and in its own interest. J&K can’t afford re-establishment of Farooq Abdullah/Omar Abdullah’s rule or Mehbooba Mufti’s rule or Sajad Lone’s rule for obvious reasons. Will the BJP do the doable? Let’s wait and see.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.