News reports suggest that the BJP is all set to seriously begin its project of social engineering in Kashmir.
In the coming elections to the state’s 87-member assembly, it is sure to bag 25 seats from the Jammu region, four and from Ladakh Five to seven seats from the Valley, not an impossible task for the party, should put it in a position of advantage in forming the next government in Jammu and Kashmir.
Given the fact that it has already launched some major pro-people initiatives and thinks it prudent to avoid contentions issues like scraping Article 370 and creating a ‘homeland’ for Kashmir Brahmins, it may not be difficult for the Hindu nationalist party to spring a historic surprise by coming to power in a Muslim-majority, and ‘sensitive’ state.
This would gain the sangh parivar enormous political and ideological mileage, and help soften its rabid anti-Muslim image. In a jiffy, it could claim to be a party of all and for all. The sangh’s real intentions can remain buried deeply in its political and ideological plan of action. Once in power, it could translate many, if not all, of its dreams into practical reality.
Four seats from Ladakh would not be much of a problem for it, because the party has already made deep inroads in the region’s political landscape. Presently, Ladakh is represented in the Parliament by a BJP MP who won his seat by just 35 votes. The anti Kashmir and anti Muslim political climate, particularly in Leh, which the BJP has generated over the past two decades, is bound to act decisively in its favour.
Kargil can be easily managed, as it was during the parliamentary polls when the Kargilis split themselves politically – and the BJP candidate romped home.. The same tactic can be repeated successfully in the assembly polls.
The BJP could work successfully on three strategic plans. First: in the parliamentary elections, it discovered that democracy as majoritarian rule, devoid of spirit, can be lethally used as a weapon against the Muslims by consolidating the Hindu vote bank. The same consolidation strategy has worked to more than the BJP’s expectations in the Jammu province. It could be used in Kashmir where, in the backdrop of boycott politics, the entire Kashmiri Pandit community could vote for the BJP and provide the winning margin.
The third important factor is that the BJP is the ruling party at the centre and is backed by top business tycoons. So it can, on the one hand, throw open opportunities and benefits, and on the other, also use money power. This the BJP would attribute to its development plank.
So what is the PDP going to do? Actually it has been gauging its potential for success on the assumed defeat of the National Conference and the belief that the BJP cannot make any deep inroads in Kashmir. Hence a large number of people, including some super rich individuals like Altaf Bukhari, and former bureaucrats like Raja Aijaz Ali, have been rushing into the PDP fold, seeing it as the best bet to protect and further their interests.
Since grassroots level leadership is non- existent in Kashmir politics, ‘leaders’ with means para-drop themselves into the role, and go on to rule. Earlier, the superrich class would play the role of backroom boys by financing all political parties to secure their interests, but now, in the political vacuum created by insurgency, they are stepping right into the thick of action themselves. The insurgency was successful in creating a political vacuum but has failed to emerge as an alternative. The PDP is the biggest beneficiary of this situation
The party has been playing on separatist sentiments with much success, and knows full well that it has to act as the B-team of the BJP in the state. If the latter’s strategy works well, it could emerge as the single largest party in the state, and the PDP the runner-up. The Congress, the NC and the independents can grab only a few seats. Thus there is a strong possibility that even if the PDP emerges as the single largest party in the assembly, it wouldn’t be in a position to form a government (on its own). Simply put, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed faces the Lotus as the ultimate obstacle in his bid to become Chief Minister and shape the state according to his heart’s desire.
Thus the BJP strategy not only poses a serious challenge to Mufti’s party but may also force the so called separatists to rethink their boycott policy, which, if rethought, can prove helpful for the PDP.
In this backdrop, upcoming assembly polls could prove markedly different form such exercises in the past, compelling all stake-holders to rethink and re-direct their election strategies.