Article 370 which was enacted in Jammu and Kashmir gave it a special status to this union territory but later the BJP government took the special rights and turned it into two separate union territories. Some people were in support of the government and some people were against it, so election was a much-needed thing in the territory to know what the majority of people wanted. So now the election is conducted and the results are here. Let’s talk about it. District Development Councils (DDCs) tend to have very little political power. Yet the BJP-ruled Centre conducted the recent DDC polls in Jammu and Kashmir on a scale quite out of proportion to their diminutive profile.
The reasons are obvious. Since the Centre revoked J&K’s special status last year, it has adopted a scorched earth policy towards Kashmiris. It has enacted land laws that open the union territory to all comers, liberalised domicile laws, conducted demolition drives in forests, made structural changes in administration that reduce the centrality of Kashmiris, raised new property taxes, opened state resources to outsiders, instituted laws attractive to migrant labourers and reduced the retirement age and also the civil service quota for local Indian Administrative Services and Indian Police Service officers in the union territory (UT) from 50% to 33%.DDCs too, by creating overlapping power patterns, undermine the strength of elected legislators while concentrating power in the hands of unelected civil servants who remain in service to the Centre.
For the BJP, the DDCs polls were the way to measure the disquiet into which it had thrown J&K after abrogating article 370, the ‘peace’ achieved through political repression notwithstanding. The polls showed that the annoyance over the changes in the land and domicile laws was as salient in Jammu, where electoral victory for the BJP has always been a foregone conclusion, as in Kashmir. And the elections have laid bare the astounding limits to which the BJP can go to fabricate success for itself where little of it is possible.
Now the results of the elections are out and the BJP is claiming success because it has bagged the majority of votes – 75 seats out of the 235 it was contesting. Its conclusion is technically misleading because the votes it managed to reap come predominantly from five Hindu majority districts of Jammu, Kathua, Sambha, Udhampur and Reasi, where the turnout was huge. Overall in Jammu, 68% of voters registered their ballots compared to 33% in Kashmir.
In reality, the BJP’s vote share in Jammu, when plotted against the vote shares registered during parliamentary and assembly elections in the past, has declined from 59% to 34%. Also, the fact that the Bahujan Samajwadi Party was able to open its account in Kathua suggests that the caste factor is starting to play a disadvantageous role for the BJP. The BJP also hasn’t won a single seat in the Muslim majority Poonch region.
On the top of that, the National Conference (NC) has emerged as a force to reckon with in Jammu, winning 25 seats. The NC has also fared exceptionally well in Ramban, Kishtwar and Rajouri districts of Jammu, bagging six, six and five seats respectively. The party contested 168 seats and won 67, while the PDP fielded candidates for 68 seats and won 27.
Para, a notable face of the PDP who is now in Tihar jail, also won from his seat, Pulwama. If the BJP had wagered that the NIA case would hurt the PDP, the opposite happened. Para won by a comfortable margin. His party also won in the border village of Nowshera, the home constituency of the BJP’s J&K president, Ravinder Raina, by a margin of 2,904 votes.
Furthermore, Sajad Lone’s People Conference (PC) has emerged as the party with the highest strike rate. “We contested 10 seats and won eight,” Adnan Ashraf Mir, the PC’s spokesperson, told The Wire. “In Kupwara, we contested six seats and won five.”
This shows that the grouping of regional political parties into an electoral alliance turned out to be a powerful strategy that has effectively outmanoeuvred the BJP in its own game, despite its near total control over power levers and its unrestrained propensity for manipulation.
Written by : Aadya Rani