Parliamentary elections in Jammu and Kashmir look more like a fixed match between the National Conference (NC), Congress and the PDP. All the three parties appear to be working on a joint strategy to dump BJP in the dust. If things remain the same, BJP is on way out from Jammu and Kashmir.
In 2014 parliamentary elections, BJP won three–both the Jammu seats and sole seat of Ladakh. The valley’s three seats went to the PDP. It was for the first time that the NC, since it returned to power in 1975, could not won any seat in the parliamentary elections in the state. Congress too was wiped out from the state completely.
Things now seem to have changed for all the three parties–NC, PDP and Congress.
PDP is at the lowest ebb of its popularity. It had to pay heavily for going with the BJP for government formation in the state after 2014 assembly elections. Mahbooba Mufti’s failure to handle the situation after Burhan Wani’s death, her unceremonious exit from power and mass desertion of senior leaders and former ministers dealt her further blow.
National Conference is counting on PDP’s diminishing graph. Congress too is struggling hard to win back the ground it has lost to the BJP in Jammu in the previous election.
NC and Congress are traditional allies. The NC founder Shiekh Mohammad Abdullah got back power in 1975 with the support of the Congress in the state. They contested 1977 parliamentary elections in alliance with each other. Shiekh Abdullah’s son Farooq Abdullah formed coalition with the Congress in 1986 to regain the power after his dismissal as chief minister in 1984. He contested the infamous 1987 assembly election in alliance with the Congress. The elections were allegedly rigged to keep the multi-party amalgam Muslim United Front away from power. Omar Abdullah, scion of third generation Abdullahs, formed government in coalition with the Congress in 2008.
National Conference and the Congress have again got together to contest the ongoing parliamentary elections. They have formed a unique alliance with National Conference contesting Srinagar seat, and the Congress Jammu and Udhampur seats. There would be ‘friendly’ contest between the two parties in other seats.
Jammu and Kashmir, which has six parliamentary constituencies, will vote in five phases, on April 11, 18, 23, 29 and May 6.
National Conference would not field any candidate in Jammu and Udhampur constituencies while Congress has left the Srinagar seat to NC where the party patron Dr Farooq Abdullah is seeking re-election. In the other two seats of the valley—Anantnag and Baramullah—both, the NC and Congress have fielded candidates. They have called it a friendly contest.
Keen observers, however, maintain that it is a calculated move by the two parties to accommodate the PDP, which has fielded president Mahbooba Mufti in Anantnag. Though the Congress and NC have no public alliance with the PDP but there appears a tacit understanding among them to see Mahbooba Mufti through in the elections.
National Conference has nominated former High Court judge Justice Hasnain Masoodi as its candidate for Anantnag seat. This is Justice Masoodi’s first rendezvous with politics, and is deemed as weak candidate against Mahbooba Mufti. He is not known to a vast majority of people across the board. He has remained out of public gaze during entire career. However, it was in the last days of his career that he caught public and political attention. In October 2015, Justice Masoodi gave a landmark ruling on Article 370 of Indian constitution which accords special status to the state. Justice Masoodi, in his judgment, said that Article 370 was a permanent Article and it could not be altered or aborted. The permanent status of 370 is facing a challenge in the Supreme Court by some hard-line Hindu individuals and groups. He retired from the service just three months later, and again went off the public minds.
Congress’s friendly contest with the NC in Anantnag is deemed as an attempt to give edge to Mahbooba Mufti over her rivals with division in votes, mainly of Congress and NC.
Mahbooba, in return favored both NC and Congress in her own way. PDP fielded a Shia candidate in Srinagar against Farooq Abdullah. Farooq Abdullah is facing a serious challenge from Peoples’ Conference nominee and Shia leader Abid Ansari. Fielding a Shia candidate is seen as a bid by the PDP to divide Shia vote to benefit Farooq Abdullah in the elections.
The PDP has not fielded any candidate in Jammu and Udhampur constituencies as well to pay back the Congress for its ‘favor’ in Anantnag. It is direct fight between Congress and the BJP in Jammu region. With PDP and NC behind it, Congress has the upper edge currently, both, in Jammu and Udhampur constituencies.