The Narendra Modi-led NDA Government at the centre and the BJP high command must review their Kashmir centric approach and policies
Urban Local Bodies (ULB) elections were held in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh State after a long gap of 13 years on October 8, 10, 13 and 16. Muslims in Kashmir held aloof from the electoral exercise. Only about 3 per cent Kashmiris, including Muslims and internally-displaced Kashmiri Hindus living in Jammu since their migration in January 1990, exercised their right to vote. Separatists of all hues had given a poll boycott call. The so-called mainstream Kashmiri Muslim parties such as National Conference of Abdullahs, People’s Democratic Party of Muftis and CPI-M of Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami boycotted the polls, saying the Government of India didn’t make a categorical commitment that it will not tinker with Article 35-A and that it will defend it in the Supreme Court on January 19, 2019. (Article 35-A makes unjust and disturbing distinctions between J&K men and women, on the one hand, and between J&K residents and all other Indians, on the other hand, in matters relating to citizenship rights.) The poll boycott in Kashmir helped the BJP capture 100-odd wards in Kashmir. But to describe it as the victory of the BJP would be just an exercise in self-deception.
The BJP suffered a huge loss. It got 51 per cent less votes in the civic polls as compared to its vote-share in the city during the assembly elections.
In Jammu and Ladakh, the state’s two largest regions, the people’s participation in the electoral exercise was massive. It was expected. In Ladakh, almost 67 per cent eligible voters exercised their right to elect two municipal councils, one each in the Buddhist-majority Leh district and Shia-majority Kargil district. The story of Jammu was no different. Over 65 per cent voters voted across the province. In fact, the people of Jammu and Ladakh showed Kashmiri separatists and half-separatists their place and reposed full confidence in the democratic system.
Results were declared on October 20. Ever since then, the BJP leadership in the state and at the centre has been celebrating the poll outcome with great pomp and show and indulging in drum-beating suggesting that it performed exceedingly well and defeated all their political foes. PM Narendra Modi and BJP national president Amit Shah thanked the people of the state for “reposing faith in the BJP in the ULB elections”. They even spoke to J&K BJP chief Ravinder Raina and lauded him for what they called “superb performance under him”.
What is the BJP celebrating?” It would not be an overstatement if it is said that the BJP is celebrating its humiliating defeat both in Jammu and Ladakh, its two core constituencies in the state. In Ladakh, the BJP could not win a single ward out of 26. This, despite the fact that the lone Ladakh MP Thupstan Chhewang belonged to the BJP and the BJP, controlled the prestigious Autonomous Hill Development Council, Leh. The Buddhists decimated the BJP because it had gone back on its three solemn commitments that it, if voted to power, will grant UT status to Ladakh, include Bhoti language in the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution and open up the Kailash-Mansarovar route via Leh. As was expected, the Shiite Muslims also rejected the BJP outright. It was the Congress, which sprung a big surprise by winning 18 of the 26 wards, all the 13 in Leh and 5 in Kargil. The remaining 8 wards were captured by independents, all Muslims.
In Jammu, the BJP, which had got 32.5 per cent votes in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and 22.5 per cent votes six months later in the assembly polls, also suffered humiliating defeat in 9 out of 10 districts – Kathua, Samba, Poonch, Rajouri, Udhampur, Reasi, Ramban, Kishtwar and Doda. In these 9 districts, the BJP could win only five municipal councils, one each in Kathua’s Hiranagar and Reasi’s Katra; two in Rajouri’s Nowshehra and Sunderwani; and one in Ramban’s Batote and that was all. Sunderbani was the only town in these 9 districts where the BJP performed exceptionally well. It won 10 out of 13 wards.
It was only Jammu district that helped the BJP save its face. It won all, barring two Municipal Councils – Bishnah and Khour – hands down. It also captured the prestigious Jammu Municipal Corporation on its own for the first time in 70 years. It won 43 out of 75 wards in Jammu city consisting of three assembly segments. The Congress won 14 and independents won 18.
However, in terms of votes, the BJP suffered a huge loss. It got 51 per cent less votes in the civic polls as compared to its vote-share in the city during the assembly elections. In the 2014 assembly elections, the BJP had secured 1,48,061 votes, but in the 2018 just-held ULB polls, the BJP got only 72,603 votes from the Jammu East, the Jammu West and the Gandhinagar Assembly segments. In other words, it got 75,578 votes less than to its vote share of 1,48,061.
It needs to be underlined that the BJP had secured 21,776; 69,627; and 56,679 votes in the Jammu East, Jammu West and Gandhi Nagar Assembly segments, respectively, in 2014. But in the just-held civic polls, the BJP could get only 8,432 votes from the Jammu East Assembly segment; 34,679 votes from the Jammu West Assembly segment; and 30,058 votes from the Gandhi Nagar Assembly segment. All these figures speak for themselves and, hence, no need to reflect on what these figures really speak.
The BJP suffered such a huge loss despite the fact that three MPs – two LS and one RS –, including MoS in PMO Jitendra Singh; 5 MLAs; 6 MLCs; Speaker of the J&K Assembly; one former MoS Defence Chaman Lal Gupta; five former BJP ministers, including two Deputy Chief Ministers; and almost all the BJP leaders, including the party president, live in Jammu. Jammu City also houses the BJP headquarters – opposite Jitendra Singh’s residence in Trikuta Nagar. Jammu city, which is the hub of all activities, was considered the BJP’s stronghold.
Appeasement policy would make Jammu and Ladakh BJP-free and this will not augur well for the future of the nation in the State of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.
The BJP suffered similar losses in other districts as well. Take, for instance, Ram Nagar in Udhampur district. In the 2014 assembly elections, the BJP had secured over 70 per cent votes in Ram Nagar, but in the ULB elections, it could secure only 39 per cent votes – 31 per cent less.
It would not be out of place to also refer here to the performance of the Congress in Jammu city in 2018 and 2014, respectively. Like the BJP, the Congress also suffered in Jammu at the hands of the alienated electorate. In the 2014 Assembly elections, the Congress had got 67,981 votes but in the just-held civic polls, it could secure only 53,684 votes – 14,297 votes less. In other words, its vote share in Jammu city also fell and fell by 21 per cent.
The dismal performance of the BJP in Jammu and Ladakh was an occasion for the party leadership to sit up, retrospect and find what went wrong, but it chose otherwise. The message for BJP from Jammu and Ladakh was loud and clear. The message was: The Narendra Modi-led NDA Government at the centre and the BJP high command must review their Kashmir-centric approach and policies and adopt an approach that makes the people of Jammu and Ladakh to believe that the BJP has abandoned the Nehruvian approach and adopted the line which Syama Prasad Mookerjee followed and for which he laid down his life in Kashmir on June 23, 1953. There is no other way. Appeasement policy would make Jammu and Ladakh BJP-free and this will not augur well for the future of the nation in the State of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.
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