Srinagar: The shocking defeat of the ruling National Conference (NC) candidates in the recently held Lok Sabha elections will have far reaching consequences on the Assembly polls slated to be held this year end.
Political commentators believe that there were multiple factors that made NC to taste the defeat at the hands of its rival People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP).
While the major factors, the experts said, was the killing of over 120 civilians, mostly young boys, in firing by police and paramilitary forces during the mass uprising of 2010, the Afzal Guru hanging was the last nail in their coffin. Apart from these, the failures in fulfilling its repeated promises, especially the revocation of AFSPA also led to the poll debacle.
Experts believe that the prevailing political situation has put NC in a tight spot and have posed a serious challenge to the party for the forthcoming Assembly elections.
“I think NC has suffered the biggest loss so far. They will have a difficult situation in Assembly elections. It depends how they strategise their position. It is possible that they would be routed out,” says Prof. Noor Ahmad Baba of Department of Political Science, Kashmir University.
He said the policy of BJP towards Muslims and how the PDP operates, will have an impact on Assembly elections in Kashmir. “It would not be easy for NC because of the sweep BJP and PDP had here in Kashmir. It puts a major challenge to them,” Baba said.
Baba said that among the major reasons for the defeat of NC candidates was its alliance with the Congress party. He said had the NC contested the polls at its own, the party would have at least won Ladakh seat.
“It is an alarm bell for NC. It’s an alarm bell for their future. They have always retained the dominant position in Kashmir politics. I think being an ally of Congress cost them dearly this time,” he said.
Besides, he said, Congress also did not cooperate with the coalition partner on issues like demilitarization and revocation of controversial laws like AFSPA.
“Then there were summer unrests of 2009 and 2010 followed by Afzal Guru’s hanging. They (NC) came very repressively on people,” he said.
Another political commentator pointed out that the ‘absurd’ statements made by the NC patron against the people of Kashmir also played a vital role in his defeat. Abdullah, he said, in arrogance of power has hurt millions of Kashmiris, even his party cadres with his tirade against the people.
“Without caring about the fallout, Farooq Abdullah advocated Afzal’s hanging. Then he termed Kashmiris as thieves. How can he expect votes from people whom he abuses and humiliates,” he asked.
“NC even lost the little credibility it had among the people by allying with Congress. It was Congress running the show, not NC,” he added.
Prof Nasir Mirza, who teaches journalism at the Media Education Research Centre (MERC), Kashmir University, said that the verdict has defined the widening gap between the rulers and the people and the same will have an impact on the Assembly polls. The PDP, he said, will also try to fill this gap for political benefits.
“Actually in towns people have boycotted the electoral process. But in the segments where people have cast their votes, they have very clearly conveyed their message. And the message to the party in power is that you have not come up to the expectations of the electorate. So, I think this will have an impact on the forthcoming Assembly elections,” Mirza said.
Commenting about the factors that led to NC’s defeat, Mirza said that Afzal Guru’s hanging happened very close to the conduct of elections and it took a toll on the ruling party.
“And the statements that have come from the NC leadership also have played a big role. It conveys clearly, fully and abundantly that most of the statements that have come from NC leadership have not been in good taste,” he said.
“So, it is now going to be a lengthy course for NC to regain the trust of the people and to reclaim the position the enjoyed. At the moment, the opposition has an edge. And they can capitalize over it,” Mirza added.